7 Tips for Running Effective Meetings

Raise your hand if you love attending meetings. Anyone? I’m probably getting a Ferris Bueller-type response at that request, right? Now, imagine the task of overcoming that kind of negative reaction when it’s your turn to lead meetings. It’s not always easy to run effective meetings and ensure people are glad they attended.

Here are seven ways to make sure you're leading effective meetings that are worth everyone’s time:

1. Know what you want. What do you hope to achieve through your meetings? Can your goals be accomplished without a formal gathering? Sometimes meetings aren’t even necessary.

If you do schedule a time, create a written agenda for participants, including key topics and the names of people who might lead certain discussions. Distribute it in advance so everyone can prepare.

2. Invite the right people. Ever attended meetings that have little or nothing to do with your job? What time-wasters. Don’t be the leader who selects the wrong attendees. Make sure everyone invited to participate in your meetings has something valuable to offer and a stake in the outcome.

3. Be punctual. It seems like there’s always someone running late when it comes to meetings. Unless that person is your boss, make every effort to start on time for those who did show up when requested.

4. Stay on target. One of my personal annoyances with meetings is when they go off-track. You know, they start off focused on that big company project but end up shifting into a talk about problems with the office copier. All I can think of is the work I’m not getting done while people ramble.

Those who know how to run effective meetings understand that a key part of the job is steering attendees in the right direction. If people get off-track, direct them back to the agenda.

5. Be inclusive. Some participants will speak up more than others. No one should dominate the discussion, though. If someone is making all of the comments, start asking others for their input. For instance, you might say, “Bill has made some great points about the new software. How do you think this will affect the rest of the administrative group, Jennifer?” If you’re running effective meetings, you make everyone feel a part of the idea-generating team.

6. Stick to the schedule. Meetings should wrap up on time. If there’s more to discuss, ask if people can stay or plan on a separate discussion later.

7. Follow up. The process doesn't end after the discussion closes. You’ll want to send a summary to attendees as soon as you can afterward. This will remind participants about what was accomplished and what needs to be done.

Do you lead a lot of meetings in your administrative role? What tips do you have for running effective meetings?