6 Focus Areas to Create More Effective Meetings 

By Kim Hegeman, CPED Marketing Specialist 

Meetings are a necessity of the business world. In recent years, the number of meetings we have had to lead or attend has increased. A common complaint is often “this meeting is a waste of my time.” 

How do you avoid wasting time? Plan effective meetings. How can you ensure an effective meeting? All effective meetings are: 

  1. Productive 
  1. Safe 
  1. Well organized 
  1. Relevant and engaging 
  1. Efficient 
  1. Collaborative 

Here are tips to ensure your meetings are effective and productive. 

1. Productive  

Productive meetings have a goal(s), but the number of goals should be limited to ensure they can be achieved. Identify the goal(s) prior to the meeting. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely).  

The type of meeting you hold will differ based on the goals. And while we’d all like to lessen the number of meetings on our calendars, sometimes having more, shorter meetings can be more effective than fewer, longer meetings. 

2. Safe 

A safe meeting means setting ground rules that create expectations for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. These ground rules create a safe environment for participants to engage in the meeting, express their thoughts and opinions, and disagree respectfully. 

Once everyone has had input into the ground rules, confirm that all meeting participants understand the rules, commit to following them, and is willing to enforce the rules during the meeting.  

3. Organized 

Well this seems like an obvious must-do for meetings, it is often one of the leading factors of ineffective meetings. If the meeting does not have a clear, organized agenda to follow it is much harder to stay on track. 

The meeting agenda should reflect the goals of the meeting, identify the topics for the meeting, and the methods used to facilitate those topics to achieve the goals. Having an agenda for every meeting is essential.  

As an additional step to make meetings more inclusive, sending out the agenda in advance and allowing time after meetings to submit feedback can help engage team members who are introverted or desire more processing time in order to contribute to the conversation.  

4. Relevant and Engaging 

You have to have the right people in the meeting. Participants need to know how the meeting is relevant to them and their roles. If the meeting isn’t relevant, a participant will zone out, disrupt, or leave a meeting. If the right people are missing from the meeting it can prevent progress and decisions from being made. If you can’t have all the right people, consider rescheduling the meeting. Only invite the people who need to attend. 

5. Efficient 

An efficient meeting boils down to facilitation. Good meeting facilitation means following the agenda, keeping participants focused on goals, enforcing ground rules, keeping the meeting on time, and helping participants work through tough issues. Facilitation does not mean steering the meeting towards your own solution. 

One way to ensure meetings stay on track is to include a “parking lot.” This can be as simple as an agenda section or a whiteboard list that documents additional items for discussion that fall outside the scope of the meeting. Documenting the items ensures they won’t get lost but allows the group to move back to more relevant topics. 

6. Collaborative 

In collaborative meetings, every participant has a role, and they know what their role is. Roles can include: 

  • Subject Matter Experts 
  • Contributors 
  • Decision makers 
  • Representatives 
  • Consumers (of information, etc.) 
  • Presenters 
  • Notetakers 
  • Timekeepers 
  • Scribes 

When everyone knows their role they can be more engaged in the meeting, and they also know why they are part of this particular meeting. 

Understanding these six areas of focus for more effective meetings is the first module Tom Westcott teaches in Effective Meeting Management and Facilitation. It’s the basis for diving deeper into what prevents successful meetings and new tools and techniques for facilitating more effective meetings.