The more meetings I’m involved in, the more I realise there are some techniques that really help ensure a meeting runs smoothly.

I also attended some very useful ‘Account Management’ training at rogenSi last year that included some great ideas for preparing for, and then running an effective meeting (they also run a course – ‘Effective Meeting Skills‘.

Here’s what I’ve been discovering, and will be seeking to implement in future meetings – feel free to contribute your wisdom via the comments section below.

1. Decide who is chairing the meeting

This isn’t always as clear as it might seem – this should be settled before the meeting starts to avoid confusion on the day. This is particularly important when two people might have key roles on the project, both eager to drive the project. It’s also important when no one really wants to take responsibility! Either way, one person should chair. Often the chair is the person who sends round the agenda, which leads on to the second point…

2. Have an agenda

An agenda enables people to prepare. It clarifies the goals of the meeting. It helps to focus discussion at the meeting. It should be distributed in advance of the meeting – the earlier the better, to allow participants to think ahead, and prepare as required.

3. Set-up the meeting

The chair should begin the meeting by:

  • Reminding people of the purpose of the meeting (why did you .
  • Reiterating the goals of the meeting (what the outcomes of the meeting should be).
  • Introducing people who don’t know each other yet.
  • Talking participants through the agenda, and how much time will be spent on each item.
  • Explaining when the meeting will be finished (and ensuring that the meeting actually does finish then).

4. Keep accurate, unambiguous notes as a record of the meeting

At the end of the meeting, summarise the discussion, and in particular the decided outcomes, and who will be doing what, when. Get verbal agreement from all participants. Send this meeting summary via email to all participants – this is their last chance to question or clarify the outcomes of the meeting, and the wording of these outcomes. This is essential for the final step…

5. Hold participants to account for the actions resulting from the meeting

Meetings will quickly become discouraging if participants don’t follow through with what was agreed. This could be doing what they said they would do. Or later challenging what was agreed. Either way, if a meeting is to avoid being a waste of time, participants must be held to account. The next meeting is a good opportunity to follow-up on these actions, and review what is outstanding.