The 5 Things You Should Do Before You Start Your Next Meeting

Oh no, someone’s called another meeting and you have to attend.  That racks up 10 so far this week.  How are you supposed to do your work if you’re constantly in meetings?  The most common complaints about meetings are that they are too long, not always productive and often a complete waste of time.


While you may not have influence over how other people run their meetings, you certainly can do something about yours!  


Here’s our Take Five on what to do before starting your next meeting:






  1. Have An Agenda – Your meeting should have a clear goal.  What’s the purpose of the meeting and what outcome do you want?  Organize the meeting with the various topics to be discussed and what the desired outcome is.  It should be clear when a decision is expected, as opposed to providing a status on the project. Each topic should have an allotted time (e.g., 10 minutes) and you should lead with the most important things, like what decisions need to be made.  People are freshest at the start of the meeting and you’ll want to take advantage of this. 
  2. Invite The Right People – More things tend to get done at smaller meetings.  Only have the people necessary to achieve your desired outcome.  Make sure the people included have the knowledge to discuss the issues and the appropriate authority to make agreements.  You might want to structure the meeting so that decision makers can leave when they’re done.   There’s no need to invite an entire department when one person can represent the group. 
  3. Discuss Issues Beforehand – Share the agenda and the issues with the key people beforehand.  The more they know about what will be discussed and what decisions need to be made, the more productive the meeting will be.  Make sure everyone knows what information they need to bring. By having a brief conversation with them prior to the meeting you will know what they may raise at the meeting.  The more you know in advance, the better prepared you will be.
  4. Decide How You’ll Manage – Will you make an opening statement that reiterates the purpose and objective of the meeting?  Will you summarize along the way (recommended) or at the end?  Who will take the notes?  How will you keep people on track and draw the meeting to an end?  All these should be decided beforehand so that you are managing the meeting and its not managing you.
  5. Keep Them Engaged – We’ve all sat through seemingly endless meetings, where someone droned on and on.  To the extent that you can, engage people so they are actively participating.  After all this is not a lecture, it’s a meeting.  If you notice someone is particularly quiet, ask for their input.  Every voice in your meeting should count or why else would they be in the room?  In the spirit of being inclusive, you’ll want to create an atmosphere in which people feel free to express their views.  Not only will this keep the energy level high, there will be more solutions offered for consideration.


Meetings are a necessary part of business and the most effective ones are those in which the best planning was done prior to the meeting.  The planning that you do upfront is a compliment to the people in the meeting, because it shows you care about their time.   Just like you, they have lots on their plate, so help them get back to work soon.


Copyright 2008


Whelan Stone


About whelanstone

I'm originally from New York - lost my accent when I moved down to Florida - and made San Francisco my home in 1985. I've been recruiting & coaching for 12 years, with the best partner (Fred) you could ask for, and love what I do. When I'm not busy working I write screenplays (haven't sold one yet) and travel - Morocco this past summer was fantastic. Fred and I started this blog because we wanted to share what we've learned along the way. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we do writing it.
This entry was posted in career, Meetings, Productivity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The 5 Things You Should Do Before You Start Your Next Meeting

  1. Jim Bennett says:

    Great message.
    Meetings…been there, done that! Obviously, meeting have a pupose. Too often, those who run meetings have a difficult time understanding the difference between “activity” and “accomplishment”.

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