As web workers, we probably have to endure meetings less often than our cube-dwelling counterparts. When you do hold a meeting with a client or with your teammates, either face-to-face or as a teleconference, you want to make it as effective as possible so you get […]


As web workers, we probably have to endure meetings less often than our cube-dwelling counterparts. When you do hold a meeting with a client or with your teammates, either face-to-face or as a teleconference, you want to make it as effective as possible so you get the outcomes that you want, without wasting anyone’s time.

Here are some tips for making sure that your meetings are less of a chore, go smoothly and have outcomes that are favorable for everyone.

Decide if the meeting is required

My No. 1 meeting rule is not to waste anyone’s time. Companies hold too many meetings. Don’t hold the meeting if you don’t need to or just because you’ve held meetings for this purpose before. Can you achieve the same outcome via more efficient means instead; maybe through a phone call or email?

Decide what type of meeting you are holding

Seth Godin wrote this week that there are three types of meeting:

  1. Information. This is a meeting where attendees are informed about what is happening (with or without their blessing). While there may be a facade of conversation, it’s primarily designed to inform.
  2. Discussion. This is a meeting where the leader actually wants feedback or direction or connections. You can use this meeting to come up with an action plan, or develop a new idea, for example.
  3. Permission. This is a meeting where the other side is supposed to say yes but has the power to say no.

There is a danger of meetings suddenly changing from one type to another, during the meeting, without everyone being aware of it. You need to decide what type of meeting you are holding and make sure everyone knows what it is beforehand.

Have an agenda and stick to it

Nothing is more frustrating than a meeting that has no clear purpose and meanders from topic to topic. All meetings should have an agenda distributed to all attendees beforehand so that you know what you’re going to be discussing and deciding upon. Everyone needs to be aware of what they should bring to the meeting so that they don’t feel ambushed on the day. Finally, an agenda is not clearly defined if it has “Any Other Business” on it.

Only invite people to the meeting who need to be there

People should only be invited to the meeting if they are required — if they will have important input or be involved in decision-making. Be rigorous when pruning the list of invitations: attendees who don’t feel like they are contributing or required will be bored, resentful and inattentive. It’s OK to have people only attend for the part of the meeting that they’re needed for.

Have someone chair the meeting

This may feel stuffy and formal, but with no chairperson, you’ll have a hard time making sure that the meeting sticks to to the agenda. The chairperson should also ensure that everyone contributes.

Start on time and do not overrun

People are giving up valuable time out of their working day for the meeting. Therefore it is vital that meetings start on time and do not overrun: this is the chairperson’s responsibility. If you cannot finish your meeting on time, you should schedule another.

Follow up afterwards

It’s important to follow up afterwards. Thank everyone for their time, distribute outcomes and action points as appropriate.

These tips should also work well for teleconferences. For some teleconference-specific pointers, check out 27 Tips for Teleconferencing.

What tips do you use for holding an effective meeting?

Image by lusi from sxc.hu

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By Simon Mackie

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  1. billbennettnz Friday, March 6, 2009

    Earlier in the week I came across this wonderful quote from Peter Drucker:

    “One Either Meets or One Works”

    Drucker is right. Meetings are too often a substitute for real work.

  2. @Bill I think that is is probably overstating it a little to make the point :) Meetings can be very effective if used correctly. However, if you’re spending more time in meetings than doing actual work you’re doing something wrong!

  3. billbennettnz Saturday, March 7, 2009

    Fair enough Simon.

    I still think its fair to say the best tip for efficient meetings is to have fewer of them.

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