How to run a meeting in ten easy steps

Have you ever dreaded going to a meeting? Does your mood drop every time the word “meeting” is mentioned? If done properly, meetings can be fun and productive. We will go over how to get there in ten easy steps.

Step 1: When to have a meeting?

Is the email chain getting long and hard to follow? Is the conversation between two or more people? Are you struggling to reach a decision? Would meeting as a group take less time than writing more emails? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions then you should have a meeting.

Step 2: Who should be in the room?

You should not invite the whole company. The more people you have in the room, the more opinions you are going to have, the harder it will be to reach a decision. Invite only the people who can make decisions and need to be there.

Step 3: How to prepare an agenda?

People’s time is valuable and you should not waste it by not having a plan going into a meeting. Without an agenda, meetings have a higher chance of being derailed and consequently attendance will diminish due to the frustration caused by not having an effective game plan. Clearly outline a reason for a meeting, what questions need to be answered and who needs to be in the room. You can also provide people with an option of inviting others if they do not have expertise or cannot provide valuable input themselves. Do not issue an agenda last minute. Send out a detailed agenda at least twenty-four hours before a meeting. This way attendees have time to do their homework and prepare. If a meeting was scheduled weeks in advance, it would help if you resend an agenda as a reminder, since all of us are excellent at procrastination and leaving it until the last minute.

Step 4: How to send an invite?

You should send out an email with a calendar option to block off a time slot as a reminder to attendees. Clearly state an agenda, time and place of a meeting. If its a physical location which some people have never been to before, include directions of how to get there and whether you will meet them at a predefined location. If it is an online conference, include getting started guide with whatever platform you are using for a meeting. Many platforms out there are clunky, not user intuitive, require a download, and playing around with audio and microphone settings.

Step 5: How to prepare for a meeting?

Most meetings that I have been to as an attendee. The first 10 minutes were spent on getting laptop connected to a projector or TV with crowd yelling out how to do it. “Click X”, “no press CTRL+ALT+F5”, “here let me do it”, “what channel is it on”, “switch input”. To avoid technical troubleshooting on the fly with everyone participating, come in to the meeting room 10 minutes ahead of time and test the connection to a TV or projector, and your internet connection, if you have been there before. If you have never been to the meeting room, you should get there ahead of time in case you are missing cables or need an adapter or need to reach an IT department to help you setup.

The IT Crowd by Graham Linehan

Step 6: How to start a meeting?

Start meeting with welcoming everyone, introducing yourself, introducing the agenda and goals of the meeting and start a round table of introductions. As people are introducing themselves, make sure to keep attendance. You will need it for the meeting minutes. Afterwards go over each item and open the discussion to a table or address individual person who is a subject matter expert on that topic.

Step 7: How to stay on track and have control of an audience?

Sometimes the discussion can get heated and people will start arguing. Discussions can also get carried away into something people would rather talk about. To get the control of the room do so by reiterating the question or the topic of discussion and hand it over to a subject matter expert.

Step 8: How to end on time?

It is possible that you might not be able to discuss all of your items on the agenda. Not to worry, you can always schedule another meeting or assign action items. If a meeting is running out of time, get control of the room, mention that there is about five minutes remaining, summarize the meeting, what has been discussed and decisions made. Figure out who will be responsible for the remaining actions items and figure out best time for a next meeting. Always end on time! People might need to be in another meeting or need to eat food, since it’s lunch time and food is sacred.

Step 9: How to assign action items?

Make sure you confirm with a person that you will assign an action item to them, explain what is required from them and when you are hoping for them to get it done. Make sure you do it in person at the end of the meeting, otherwise good luck chasing anyone down.

Step 10: How to follow up with meeting minutes?

Meeting minutes is an excellent way to document your meeting, who was in the room, decisions that were made, action items and their responsible parties. Make sure you don’t take too long after the meeting to send out meeting minutes, to ensue it is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Meeting minutes can save your life at the end of the project where people are asking why things are designed and working the way they are, you can always refer back to the meeting minutes.

These are ten steps that I follow to have a great meeting experience. Of course there are more tips and tricks out there to have fun in the meetings. Please let me know what you do in the comments below.

Head of Product and Developer Advocate @PDFTron. BASc in Computer Engineering with a minor in Business Management. https://andreysafonov.com