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Executive Leadership Coaching

3 minute read

Successful Meetings: What We’ve Learned From Thousands of Meetings

May 2, 2019

Written by: Shawn Sweeney

Our Spinnaker team of experts knows a thing or two about meetings. In our careers, we’ve participated in, planned, and lead thousands of meetings. And over the years we’ve seen it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we think about the #1 ingredient of successful meetings, we all have the same response: It’s all about the agenda!

If you’re looking to upgrade your own meetings to boost efficiency and productivity, start with your agenda. To learn more, check out what we’ve learned from thousands of meetings with a list of our best tips for successful meetings, including agendas and a few more secrets to help you make the most of your meeting time.

Successful Meetings Start with an Agenda

Successful meetings are all about the agenda — it’s your road map for meeting success. It’s not only important, it’s essential that you clearly define the meeting’s goals and objectives.

Says Spinnaker Consultant Scott Mainwaring: “No objective, no meeting!” But seriously, your meeting needs a purpose. What do you want to accomplish? What are your goals — or even your one single goal? Without purpose, a meeting is just a waste of time.

Check out our top tips for building a successful agenda, and how to use it to run a successful meeting:

How To Build a Successful Agenda

  1. Do your homework: Clearly define the meeting’s purpose and the outcome you need.
  2. Ask for input: Ask attendees for agenda items before your meeting to ensure you’ve covered all your bases. Allow enough advance time for meaningful questions and feedback. This is also a good time to ensure the people you’re inviting can offer input that impacts the agenda’s goals and objectives — if you need decisions, will the right decision-makers be at the table?
  3. Be specific: Your agenda should have detail so everyone is level-set on what to expect. The more you can drill down the better.
  4. Rinse and repeat: Recurring meetings need a clear agenda too!

How To Use an Agenda to Run Successful Meetings

  1. Get a head start: Share your agenda — and support materials like reporting or budgets — before your meeting with enough time for attendees to review as well as prepare what they need to contribute.
  2. Be prepared: Account for everything you need to follow through on the agenda you created, from the right people in the room to the right reports, materials, and tech to get things done.
  3. Stay on track: If topics come up that aren’t on the agenda, table them for later — later in the meeting as time permits, after the meeting, or in a future meeting. Set a clear expectation and specific timeline to revisit the topic.
  4. Block time: Build specific time boundaries for agenda items, which focuses discussion around the task and also allows you to respectfully move on to the next item when the clock runs out.
  5. Call it quits: If when the meeting comes to order you don’t have what you need to proceed based on the agenda — don’t. Reschedule, so you don’t waste everyone’s time.

More Tips for Successful Meetings

While your agenda is your #1 priority, there’s a lot more that goes into planning and running successful meetings. Here’s a list of our best tried-and-true tips:

  1. Get the invite right: The people you invite to a meeting should have the knowledge, ability, and authority to accomplish your meeting’s goals. If they don’t, they’re not the right people to invite to the table.
  2. Stay on time: Respect everyone in the meeting by starting on time and ending on time, no matter what. If you do this consistently, you’ll not only build trust but mutual respect as well.
  3. Set the tone: Open your meeting by setting expectations as well as encouraging participation and collaboration to maximize value and contributions from everyone in attendance. Set context and objectives right from the start, so everyone’s on the same page. Says Spinnaker Consultant Jack Gooding: “Meetings can fail in the first 5 minutes if the appropriate context and objectives aren’t set.”
  4. Engage everyone: As a meeting leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure all voices are heard. Help the process by calling on those who may need a prompt to share.
  5. Don’t skip the intros: It’s always a good idea to ensure everyone in the room knows who’s there. Don’t take this for granted.
  6. Be prepared: Do your due diligence so you can run an efficient, effective meeting. Check all the boxes on preparation. If you’ve done your job well, the meeting will show it.
  7. Review action items: Review all action items at the end of the meeting, so it’s clear who’s responsible for what — and by when. Record action items in the minutes. And send an email reminder afterward.
  8. Don’t meet for the sake of meeting: When it’s evident there are no updates, or the time won’t be mutually valuable for the majority of attendees, cancel the meeting.
  9. Get feedback: After the meeting, ask one or two people what they thought went well, and what could have gone better. Ask for honest, constructive feedback — then apply it to improve next time.

At Spinnaker, we’re all about maximizing time. We jump in and roll up our sleeves to help you get there faster. We’re the go-to resource for the real-time results you need now, and the lasting impact you depend on to strengthen your business in the future. Our expertise, agility, and first-hand business knowledge move your business forward. To find out more, connect with us today.