How to Run Effective Meetings: 4 Strategies that Work Every Time

Have you headed into a 2 pm afternoon meeting looking at your watch, dreading the 2 or 3 hours of sitting at a board room table, while work piles up back at your desk? This is a common frustration of employees and business owners. Additional common complaints about meetings often include

  • Meetings feel endless, without solving the pressing issues on the agenda.
  • No one is clear on what is happening next, what the action steps or whose job it is to complete a task.
  • It seems like the same one or two people do most of the talking.
  • Usually, there are a couple of people who bicker endlessly or start talking about their weekend golf game.
  • Conversations go off-topic, and the meeting leader seems tired and frustrated.

Well, you are in the right place now to learn how to turn things around. Running a successful meeting and engaging participants in the discussion does not happen by luck. Choosing to prepare, identify the purpose, and create practical actionable steps is what will make your meeting a success. Get creative, and focused, and think outside the box from the usual meeting routine, deciding to make some changes for the better.

What is the Purpose of a Meeting?

Ideally, business meetings bring together key individuals with the knowledge, authority and experience to identify problem issues, generate solutions and decide upon an actionable plan to solve an issue. Although a generalized statement, it demonstrates a goal, who the players are, information gathering, and decision-making that results in actionable steps to achieve a successful outcome.

Set Up Meetings That Matter

Having a meeting because it is booked in everyone’s weekly calendar all year long does not create a successful meeting in and of itself. To have a meeting that matters to the company and generates participation by attendees begins with 4 key strategies. 

1. Identify what you want to accomplish in the meeting

What is the goal of the meeting?

  • The results you want to achieve come from having a context of purpose. What type of meeting is it? Who is involved? For example, will you be discussing department reports for business review and planning? Conducting team building? Brainstorming for research and development? Developing and documenting systems and processes? Working with consultants? How to build and retain talent suited to the company culture? 

Set an agenda as a summary of what you want to accomplish

  • Identify who needs to attend, the date, time, location, and estimated length of the meeting. Choose key attendees rather than pull employees away from their work unnecessarily to sit there. Do employees simply need to be informed (an email or document could suffice) or be present and contribute?

Stick to your objectives in the meeting and only deviate if absolutely necessary

  • Attend to priorities first in the meeting and if a topic needs to be discussed further or have more information gathered, book a separate meeting in the future or alternate means of communication for involved parties.

2. Choose the role that aligns with your objectives

Do you normally lead a meeting standing in the same spot, at the head of the table, and direct routine questions to the same people, in the same order? How could you approach it differently to break out of the rut, gather more effective information, and efficiently get results?

In an article by David Lancefield, he recommends, “By deliberately shaping the role you want to play, you can quickly uncover new information, invalidate long-held assumptions, and test scenarios that may initially seem improbable”.

The author goes on to identify six possible roles a meeting leader could take. These include catalyst, custodian, challenger, convener, and decision maker. Ultimately what these roles do is inspire discussion, and creativity, keep people connected to the information and decisions, question logic, and consider the long-range impact of decision options. In sum, productive, engaged participants contribute to the goal of the meeting.

What role can you play to stir up creativity and problem-solving, and inspire idea generation and input in your meetings?

3. Define what you most want to communicate in the meeting

Communication is the foundation of an effective and efficient meeting. Running an effective meeting requires considering communication as part of the preparation. 

  • Prioritize what needs to be solved (goal) in the meeting
  • Set the tone of the meeting, such as lively and social (team building), the chain of command is clear (emergency damage control meeting), inspiring, welcoming, and informative (town hall meeting)
  • Be clear with attendees on the purpose of the meeting
  • Do attendees have what they need to be prepared for the meeting? Do they need to read documents or view reports ahead of time? Have you sent out an agenda?

4. Assign action items to specific people by a specific time

A plan is only effective when it is actionable and gets things done. Knowing who is responsible for completing a task and by what date keeps projects on track. Meetings can easily get led astray when there is a lot of talking that doesn’t result in practical, realistic actionable steps. 

Second, knowing who owns a task, assigns ownership, and defined responsibility to project tasks. If action steps are completed, or there are problems and timelines, and budgets that need to be reevaluated, the project lead can easily track who and how to get it fixed.


Heading into a meeting prepared, experimenting with new strategies, and getting feedback from meeting attendees will bolster your confidence, increase participation and engagement and move the company goals forward productively. Meetings are about bringing people together to share knowledge and experience in moving towards a common goal. Whether you are meeting with department heads or employees from the front line, people have a lot to offer. You hired people in your family business to contribute to the success of the organization. Now you can run an effective meeting and let them shine.

Are meetings a sore spot in your company that make everyone groan? Feel like you need help getting people engaged, evaluating your role, and improving communication in meetings?

I can help by connecting, listening, advising, and empowering family business owners to take the steps needed to run effective and productive meetings. 

Lunch & Learn this month – End the fatigue and frustration from unproductive meetings by joining me online Tuesday, February 28th @ 12pm ET. This month we will be discussing 4 strategies for how to run effective family meetings.

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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