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10 Rules for Productive and Effective Meetings by Nick Cray
September 6, 2022
Score Meeting

1. Hold meetings only when they’re absolutely required

Scheduling a meeting shouldn’t be an automatic response to every question or issue. Instead, people should be expected to seriously consider if a meeting is an appropriate format.

2. Only invite people who are truly needed

Instead of inviting everyone to your meeting, only invite those people whose input is absolutely required.

3. Assign a meeting facilitator

To run effective meetings, someone needs to be facilitating. The facilitator’s role is to ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time, covers and sticks to the agenda, and follows all established meeting rules. The key responsibility of the meeting facilitator is to create an environment where attendees can work together to reach an effective solution or conclusion within the designated time. That might include things like:

  • Introducing attendees
  • Ensuring everyone is given time to share his/her input
  • Cutting off off-topic discussions

The logical facilitator for any meeting is the person who’s organizing the meeting, so if you’re sending meeting invites to your coworkers, you should be prepared to act as its facilitator and keep the meeting you scheduled on track so it’s productive for all attendees.

4. Set up meeting equipment in advance

If you’re hosting your meeting in a conference room, head over to that conference room before your meeting begins to get set up and make sure you have everything you need.

5. Share a meeting agenda in advance

Sharing an agenda for your meeting well before the meeting takes place helps attendees see what’s going to be expected of them during the meeting. This helps them gather any information they may need in order to participate in the meeting productively.

If the people you’ve invited don’t know what they need to prepare for, you run the risk of having to host a follow-up meeting to discuss details you couldn’t gather in the first meeting because people didn’t know what questions they were going to be asked or what information they would need to provide.

6. Take and share meeting notes

The best team meetings result in a clear, shared understanding of what’s needed next, including actionable, assigned tasks. It’s the role of the meeting facilitator or assigned notetaker to ensure that all takeaways, actionable items, and decisions are documented and shared with attendees after the meeting. When taking notes in meetings, notetakers should focus on:

  • Facts (e.g. “Jenna is the creative lead on this project.”)
  • Issues (e.g. “There is too much work to complete by the deadline.”)
  • Decisions (e.g. “We will break this project up into smaller, more manageable chunks.”)
  • Action Plans (e.g. “The project manager and creative lead will determine how to break this project up.”)
  • Questions and Answers (e.g. questions that couldn’t be answered during the meeting or answers provided to questions that were asked during the meeting)

Taking detailed meeting notes is also important if you’re following the second meeting rule on this list - only invite people who are truly needed.

7. Give everyone the opportunity to participate

In a typical eight-person team meeting, three people do 70% of the talking.

As the meeting facilitator, there are a number of things you can do to encourage a better balance and give everyone a chance to participate. First, you can help people come to the meeting more confident and ready to participate. This can be achieved by sharing key questions you’re planning to ask and problems you’re hoping to solve before the meeting (via a meeting agenda) so people can come to the meeting prepared.

Second, during the meeting, it’s the role of the facilitator to ensure that the meeting isn’t dominated by one or two attendees. This can be done by actively asking less assertive attendees their opinions during the meeting or watching for physical cues that someone is struggling to break into the discussion.

Not everyone is comfortable fighting for the floor, but most will happily speak up if you offer them the opportunity. And if you’ve shared the meeting agenda in advance and asked attendees to prepare, there’s also less of a risk that you’re putting them on the spot.

Find more tips like these in this guide to inclusive team meetings:

For more information on how building inclusive meetings is the first step to building an inclusive culture:

8. Limit discussion times for each agenda item

Meetings should be no longer than an hour, as sixty minutes is generally the longest time people can remain truly engaged. To this end, it’s important that your meeting finishes on time.

To make sure you don’t run out of time before covering every item on your agenda, it helps to limit the amount of time you’ll spend on each topic you need to cover. Consider allocating a specific amount of time to each agenda item. Then, when time’s up, move on.

If you don’t want to bound discussions by set time limits, you should at least make sure to list the most important items higher up on the agenda so they’re covered first.

Related content: 6 Productivity Tips to Keep Your Meetings on Track:

9. Ban unnecessary devices

To make your meetings faster and more effective, ensure team members respect other meeting attendees by actively listening. It’s a fact that it’s much harder to listen when you’re multitasking—checking emails, replying to IMs, or making lunch plans via text messages.

If you’re meeting in person, ask attendees to stay off their phones and laptops unless they need them to take meeting notes. When hosting an online meeting, this can be more difficult to control. However, asking all attendees to keep their cameras on can help.

The good news: if you’re only inviting people who are truly needed, keeping your meetings limited to a reasonable amount of time, and sticking to your agenda, attendees will be less likely to multitask because your meetings will be more valuable for them to pay attention to.

Related content: The Art of Listening in Distributed Teams:

10. Speak slowly and clearly when presenting

When speaking publicly, Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like TED, advises speaking at a rate of 190 words per minute. If you speak much faster, you can end up sounding nervous—as if you’re trying to get it over with as soon as possible.

Written by Nick Cray, Certified Score Mentor, Operations Improvement Consultant

PO Box 248
Madison, WI 53715
(608) 535-4978

Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association,

Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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