Idiot’s Guide to Meetings

Ten Steps to Meeting Success

I should know, when I worked in the University of Ulster I once spent over forty hours in  a single month in meetings. In some organisations, this is what passes for productivity. If you have to attend meetings, then you need to make them productive.

Golden Rule 1 – if it doesn’t need a meeting then why have a meeting?

Staff can spend hours in meetings. This is often unproductive time especially if the meeting is not well chaired. Here are ten steps to meeting success.

Before the Meeting

  • Identify the overall objective of the meeting.
  • Determine the most appropriate attendees. Make sure there are enough people to meet the meeting’s objectives. Also, make sure you have the right people in the room – no point realising you should have asked someone half ways through the meeting.
  • Sound out critical attendees in advance to get their buy-in. Ono-to-one discussions before a meeting may help you rethink your position or help build understanding and support for your ideas.
  • Produce and distribute a written agenda in advance. Limit the agenda to issues affecting the group. Include meeting logistics – time, venue, attendees, call-in or video conf information, discussion topics and discussion leader if possible.

During the Meeting

  • Start on time and review agenda. Outline how long you think meeting will last and plan accordingly. Try to stick to your time estimate.
  • Proceed to discuss each issue. Retain focus and progress logically:
  • Stating the issue
  • Discussing the data/information – getting opinions round the table
  • Reaching a conclusion
  • Planning a course of action with nominated responsibilities

7         Avoid the following non-productive behaviours:

  • Letting one or two monopolize discussion
  • Rehashing old ground after you reach agreement
  • Jumping from topic to topic without agreeing anything
  • Leaving the next steps unclear

8         Conclude by briefly restating what has been agreed, outline next steps and accountabilities.

After the Meeting

 9         Finalize and distribute the notes/minutes to all attendees and copy any interested parties. List key actions and who is responsible and by when.

10         Follow up on action items from the meeting.


Go and sit in a darkened room.

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