Most people complain that they have too many meetings to attend.  This might be true but the more significant problem is that those meetings tend to be too long, badly run and ineffective.

Here are ten very simple rules for effective meetings:


  1. Get everyone to say something positive right at the start.

    A key driver of effective meetings is a reasonably even contribution from all participants*.  As an example, ask everyone to describe (in 30 seconds) a recent example of good staff behaviour or a positive outcome. As soon as they have spoken positively once, people are far more likely to contribute constructively throughout the rest of the meeting.


  1. Chair the meeting strongly.

    Treat chairing meetings as a leadership skill in its own right and invest in training key staff to chair meetings better.  In particular the Chair should: encourage contributions from all around the table; watch for who speaks to whom, (comments should not be directed solely at the Chair) and above all; do not allow interruptions.  Meetings will be far more coherent and less time consuming if people feel they can make their point without being interrupted.


  1. Be very wary of anecdotal contributions.

    There is a time and a place for storytelling in business, but in meetings, anecdotes are often time-consuming and one example does not constitute a reasoned argument. Also, call out repetitive contributions. It is natural to want to agree with colleagues, but this should be done concisely without another example illustrating the same point.


  1. Once the meeting reaches a decision, take a few moments to clarify WDWBW.

    (Who does what by when) Then invest a little more time in “If-then” planning.What if circumstances change after a decision has been made?  Set a timeframe and give yourself permission as a team to update or amend your decisions.


  1. Be clear on the purpose of each meeting.

    What outcomes and what decisions are required?


  1. Produce an Agenda early and circulate any reading material well ahead of time.

    Meetings are for informed decision making not for thinking things through from scratch without background knowledge.


  1. Capture and circulate concise minutes.

    Not a transcript of the whole debate, but purely actions agreed, including WDWBW and a timescale for “What-if” decision review.


  1. Keep phones on vibrate and ask people to leave the room if they need to take urgent calls.

    By all means have laptops handy in case of reference, but keep them shut otherwise.  Do not allow people to work on emails whilst in the meeting.  If they are in the room they must be in the room!


  1. Encourage invitees to question why they should be there.

    Time is our most limited business resource so unless you can articulate the value they will add to the meeting and/or vice versa, then take them off the invite list.


  1. For meetings of regular teams, apply the Five Dysfunctions of a Team**.

    Over time you will see the benefits of focusing on investing time in the team itself, building the ability to have robust and purposeful conversations in a high-trust environment.


Meetings should be the highlight of our working day, where we come together with respected colleagues and reach significant decisions. Instead they are often cited as the most significant frustration in peoples’ working lives.

If you treat the ability to hold effective, captivating meetings as a critical leadership skill, (which it is) then you will see both the direct positive impact of more effective meetings as well as the indirect benefits of improved time management, better communication throughout the organisation and more motivated, engaged staff.


Click here to consider how to produce more effective teams

If you would like to consider how Board meetings and the behaviour of the leaders create the Culture of the organisation, click on this link


*   “The New Science of Building Great Teams” Sandy Pentland, HBR  April 2012

**  “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” Patrick Lencioni