How do I run effective meetings?

 If you are the meeting organizer:

  • Prepare well for the meeting.
    • Be very clear on the purpose of the meeting. Is it a speech? A meeting to inform? A meeting to decide? A brainstorming session? A working session? Your preparation tasks will differ depending on what kind of meeting you are calling.
    • Develop and send out an agenda well ahead of time, and resend it a day before the meeting. For recurring meetings, create and stick to a recurring format.
    • Distribute any pre-read materials at least 3 days in advance.
    • If the agenda is controversial, organize 1×1 pre-meetings with key stakeholders to talk through the pre-read materials, and make sure any strong feelings are drawn out ahead of time.
  • Run your meeting.
    • State the goals and success criteria for the meeting at the beginning of the meeting, and check against these criteria at the end of the meeting.
    • Take control of the meeting. Drive the conversation through the agenda. Keep time. If people are starting to monopolize the conversation, or are derailing it into a tangent, gently nudge them back to the topic at hand.  Note issues that require further discussion and organize follow up sessions with the right subset of people for a deep dive.
    • For interactive discussions: use the whiteboard. Seeing things written down helps people stay focused.
    • Moderate and facilitate the discussion, enforce turn-taking, and make sure each participant has an opportunity to contribute (especially the quiet ones).
    • At the end of the meeting, summarize what you discussed for the attendees, and enumerate clear next steps.
  • Follow up.
    • Circulate meeting notes, including your own key takeaways.
    • You don’t have to have penned it all – a meeting attendee can volunteer for taking detailed notes (although the key takeaways should be yours, not theirs).

If you are a meeting attendee:

  • Respect the meeting organizer and the agenda.
    • Please don’t hijack the meeting. It’s not your meeting.
  • Respect your fellow attendees.
    • Please arrive on time – other people’s time is as valuable as your own.
    • Take turns – don’t monopolize the conversation or take it down a rabbit hole.
  • Be prepared.
    • Read any pre-read materials ahead of time, or your lack of preparation will make you the bad guy who causes the meeting to get stuck as everybody waits for you to be brought up to speed.
  • Be clear on expectations.
    • Where are you on the RACI framework for this meeting? (responsible | accountable | consulted | informed)
    • For instance, if you were invited so you can be informed, please do not try to change the fundamental premise of the topic at hand – someone else is responsible and accountable.
    • You can always reach out to them privately before or after the meeting to share your views.
  • Keep it professional.
    • Diversity of viewpoints are wonderful, but do take care to express your views constructively and respectfully so it helps forward the conversation.
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