Structuring the Meeting

All of us have attended team meetings that turn out to be a waste of time and money. This happens even when considerable effort has been made to organise things and fix an agenda. The goals may be lofty - redefining human resources policies, brainstorming about a marketing plan or reviewing budgets and forecasts – and getting people together may seem the best way forward. However, many business meetings are unable to achieve any results and even end up creating more problems than they solve.

A lot of this has to do with how the meeting is structured and managed. When planning, it’s important to go beyond agenda setting, and depending on the circumstances, the process can take anything from a few minutes to a few months. Here are 9 recognised steps for making meetings more effective:


9 Key Steps

Audience analysis – understand who will be present and who is critical to the meeting's success.

Set an objective - be sure about the desired outcome. Research - understand the issues to be discussed, decided, solved and acted upon.

Create a structure - establish the agenda and the order of tackling issues in the time available.

Get attention - start the meeting by focusing attention and explaining the relevance of the meeting.

Follow guidelines - conduct and control the meeting so as to keep things on track. Summarise and confirm – make sure everyone understands the outcome and what they are supposed to deliver.

Document and distribute results - ensure other interested parties know about the key decisions.

Review the process - after the meeting, ask yourself what went well and what could be done better the next time.

These steps will provide a structure for the process and to ensure that energy is focused on adding value, not on managing conflict.


A checklist for opening the meeting

A simple but effective way of opening a meeting is to consider what is going through the minds of the participants. They are probably wondering what it is all about, the duration and why they are attending it. If you have convened the meeting, have specific answers ready for these inevitable, but often unspoken, questions. You can then make sure everyone is on the same page by starting the meeting with an introduction of around 30 seconds, in order to provide the answers. This should have five main elements that deal with the following questions:

  • What is the meeting for?
  • Why is it beneficial, urgent or of consequence for those present?
  • How will the meeting be run?
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • Who will participate and why?

The introduction can be informal. For example, you might say: “OK, let's get started. I have invited Bob from the finance department to talk about the implementation of the new CRM customer relationship management system. It should take about 30 minutes. I hope we can learn more about the cost overruns for the project, so we can then decide which departments should absorb them." The meeting then has a clear purpose, which helps you to keep things on track and achieve your objectives.