HOW TO: Lead an Effective Meeting

Knowing how to lead a meeting effectively is an extremely valuable skill – whether in high school, college, or work. A good leader should be able to organize beforehand, mediate a productive discussion, and get everyone out right on time. Mastering this skill can really benefit your team – and you! Plus, effective meetings also motivate people to continue working hard. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of your time together:

Before

1. Can it be said in an email?

Think about whether it’s truly necessary to have a meeting. If a meeting focuses on announcements rather than discussion, it could’ve probably been an email. Try to be respectful of people’s time and have them be present only if they’ll be participating in the conversation and the decision-making.

2. Assign tasks ahead of time

You can do this in a prior meeting or in the days leading up to an upcoming one. Doing this will ensure actual progress and will give you concrete things to discuss in person. It’ll also help keep people accountable, especially if they need to give updates to the rest of the team during the meeting.

During

3. Establish clear goals at the start of the meeting

It’s easy to forget the purpose of a meeting, especially when working with larger teams or dealing with longer-term projects. Think about what your team should accomplish by the end of your time together and list these points at the start of your meeting. It’s useful for everyone to remember what the objectives are, as it will set the right framework for thinking and will make people less likely to digress.

4. Create an agenda

Create an agenda in real time to make sure the meeting tackles everyone’s points. On the one hand, going around the room and asking what needs to be discussed can be effective in making shy people more comfortable speaking up. On the other hand, it sets the direction of the meeting, which makes people focus and follow the conversation better.

Similarly, create a set of action items as you move forward, so it’s easier for everyone to remember their responsibilities. Just remember to make it easily available – this, once again, will help keep people accountable.

5. Encourage others to speak up

Leading a meeting doesn’t mean you should dominate the conversation, you should mediate it and participate to the same extent as everyone else. Be supportive of everyone in your team and their ideas. If you see some shy people around the room, approach them at the end of the meeting and ask them what you can do to help them speak up. For example, they may find you asking them to weigh in during discussions really helpful.

6. Eliminate distractions

We all know electronic devices can be tempting, especially in boring or stressful situations. If you find this is true during your meetings, try to propose a non-laptop and non-phone policy. Unless they’re really needed, they usually end up being distracting. It also means people don’t pay attention or engage with each other, which automatically breaks the team dynamic. People may react negatively at first, but a non-electronics policy can translate into meetings being significantly more effective, and therefore quicker!

7. Recognize and celebrate accomplishments

Meetings shouldn’t only be about the hustle! It’s important to take the time to celebrate people for their accomplishments and emphasize how important they are to the team. Recognizing the hard effort that went into people’s achievements also inspires them to keep up the good work.

After

8. Make yourself available to questions, concerns, and feedback

Being a good leader entails making yourself a resource to your team. Let them know that you can be contacted with any questions or concerns. Even if you don’t know the answer, you should guide people towards it. It’s also useful to establish what form of communication works best for everyone early on, so they can reach each other effectively.

Finally, don’t be scared of feedback! All teams work differently, so ask what works best for everyone. Collecting feedback regularly can prove valuable for long-term improvement.

Remember to pay attention and be in tune with your team’s needs and responses. You can then adapt these ideas on how to lead an effective meeting based on what your team responds to best. Even if you’re not a team lead, feel free to propose them during the next meeting!

- Daniela Chang Foxon