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How to Plan and Run Effective and Engaging Meeting?

Meetings are inevitable, and we’ve all been stuck in bad ones. In this article, we look at how to run meetings effectively and avoid some common meeting complaints.

How to Plan and Run Effective and Engaging Meeting?

How to Plan and Run Effective and Engaging Meeting?

Content Summary

Different types of meetings
Following a process
Preparation is key
Planning the meeting
Do you even need a meeting?
Could it be an email?
Look out for the warning signs
Running the meeting
Avoiding common meeting complaints
Managing situations outside of your control
Tips for tricky situations
Closing and following


We all complain about meetings.

  • Why are we here exactly?
  • Will this ever end?
  • Can this really not wait?
  • Nothing will ever get done.

But they don’t have to be like this. In this article, we’ll look at how to plan and run effective meetings.

Boring meetings are everywhere, so what can you do differently? in this article, we’ll look at how to avoid some common pitfalls to make your meetings more effective and engaging. But before we do, let’s look at the two categories that meetings tend to fall into…

Different types of meetings

Regular meetings

What do they look like?
One-to-ones and team meetings, scheduled in advance.

What are they for?
Exchanging information and learning from each other. There should be a place where your team can share their thoughts, feelings, or any problems with you.

Why are they important?
As a place for a two-way conversation with your team, they are crucial for building relationships and keeping everyone on the same page.

Ad-hoc meetings

What do they look like?
Meetings with a mission, called when action is needed.

What are they for?
Solving problems or making decisions. They need to be a productive used of time, so to keep the discussion on track they should be mediated.

Why are they important?
Without them, nothing gets done! These meetings are where decisions are made and actions are assigned.

Following a process

For a meeting to be effective, three crucial steps should be followed. Many meetings fall because one or more of them aren’t done properly. The steps are: Prepare -> Run -> Follow-up

Preparation is key

“So, why am I here exactly?”

Is something you don’t want to hear in a meeting. If you don’t know exactly what you want out of a meeting before you schedule it, it’s unlikely to be productive. Preparation is key, so let’s look at how you should plan your meeting…

Planning the meeting

Set meeting objectives

Think about why you want to hold a meeting. Do you want to generate ideas, make a decision or just give an update?

To set a meeting objective, complete this sentence: “By the end of this meeting, I want…”

You can then plan the meeting contents, and decide who to invite from there.

For example, if you’re holding a one-to-one meeting, your objective might be ‘to find out how they are getting on and if there’s anything I can do to help them meet their goals’.

Invite the right people

Some meetings naturally define the people you want to invite. A one-to-one, for example, if fairly obvious.

For others, it’s not so easy. If you’re struggling, think about who is absolutely necessary – those with the most relevant experience, for example.

It’s hard to stay on track or make a decision if there are too many people in the meeting. The more people there, the more productivity declines.

Be wary of timing

Meetings are only productive if everyone’s paying attention. For the best results, try to avoid times where people are more likely to be distracted, like the end of the day or right before lunch.

Research also suggests that engagement drops rapidly after 30 minutes, so aim for this or schedule in regular breaks. An invite for a three-hour-long meeting is the last thing anyone wants to see…

Change the setting

Taking your meeting outside of the office can make for a welcome change of pace and help people feel more comfortable.

For example, if you want an informal one-to-one, why not try a local coffee shop?

For quick team updates, stand-up meetings (for those who are able) are great for keeping your team engaged. Nothing conveys urgency quite like being on your feet!

Prepare an agenda

Agendas keep meetings on track. They include things like:

  • meeting objectives
  • topics for discussion
  • actions that need taking

For many meetings, the agenda doesn’t need to be a formal document. Instead, just think about what the point of the meeting is, and if there’s anything, in particular, you’d like to discuss.

However informal your agenda is, sharing it with the people attending the meeting beforehand allows for better all-round preparation.

Do you even need a meeting?

What if you don’t have a plan?

You shouldn’t go into a meeting just hoping someone will have a good idea. If you’re struggling to even put a basic agenda together, think twice about whether a meeting is actually needed.

Do you need a meeting?

All too often, people end up leaving a meeting thinking: “Well, that could’ve been an email.”

Let’s see if you can spot cases where this is likely to happen…

Could it be an email?

You want to update your team on how recent changes to Health and Safety procedures have been a success.

Should you call a meeting, or send an email?

This should be a meeting. This topic could easily need much back-and-forth discussion, so a meeting is more practical than dozens of emails.

This could be an email. It’s inefficient to call a meeting just so everyone can read the same document, let people read it at their own pace.

As a general rule

If people could leave your meeting without any actions to take, it probably should’ve been an email…

Not all information needs to be shared in person. Save meetings for times when you expect questions or debate, or the information is presented is hard to absorb through other means.

Of course, every situation is different. There’s no point replacing a 30-minute meeting with many emails if you need a back-and-forth discussion, so use your judgment.

Look out for the warning signs

If any of these sound familiar, it’s a sign that your meeting could probably be an email instead. Consider it a red flag if you:

  • are under-prepared
  • Don’t have an agenda
  • need to share information quickly
  • don’t expect questions
  • don’t need discussion

Running the meeting

.. is the next place where mistakes are made. You need to keep everyone engaged throughout the meeting. To help you out, we’ve identified some of the most common complaints and who the typical management culprits are.

Avoiding common meeting complaints

Complaint 1: Will this ever end?

Culprit: The time-waster

Their meetings never start or finish on time. They ramble on, and lack focus and preparation.

How can you do better?

Be realistic. Don’t grab someone for a ‘quick five-minute chat’ if you know you need an hour.

If key people are late or can’t attend, consider rescheduling so you can start on time. To finish on time, stick to your agenda and don’t let the conversation go too far off-topic. If you can’t reach a conclusion on a point, move on.

Complaint 2: I can’t get a word in

Culprit: The one who just sits back

They allow discussion to be dominated by certain individuals or let conversation goes in circles.

How can you do better?

Facilitate and make sure all voices are heard. Some suggestions to keep everyone engaged:

Call on people for their opinion, and encourage them to finish if they’re interrupted.

If someone interrupts, politely ask them to hold back until other people have shared their thoughts.

Complaint 3: Can this really not wait?

Culprit: The impatient one

They want something resolved so a meeting must happen right now, regardless of other priorities.

How can you do better?

Take a step back for a moment. Is this a crisis situation that needs resolving imminently? If it is’t, ask yourself:

  • Is this a priority for everyone involved?
  • Could we benefit from allowing people more time to prepare, reflect or gain more information?

Complaint 4: Nothing will ever get done.

Culprit: The one who never takes notes

No action takes place after their meetings because things get forgotten.

How can you do better?

Document the key things to take away from your meeting, and share these notes with attendees shortly afterward too.

During the meeting, aim to get closure on each topic you cover. Note who the task is for there and then, and give it a deadline – make someone accountable for it!

Managing situations outside of your control

Now imagine you’re this manager, you’re in a creative brainstorming session where nobody seems to have any ideas. There are lots of “umms”, awkward silences, and a general lack of energy in the room. It’s nearing the end of the session and you still don’t have an answer.

What do you do?

  • Wait until someone comes up with something.
  • Call on everyone individually to share something.
  • Close the meeting and rearrange, this isn’t productive.
  • Break for five minutes, then carry on as you were.

You could do that

But sometimes, you just need to accept when something isn’t working and call it a day.

Situations can come up in meetings that are outside of your control, and no amount of planning or efficient running can truly prepare you for them.

If this happens, it’s important to use your judgment on which direction a meeting goes. You should be mindful of the people present when deciding what to do next, so let’s look at some tips on how you can be better prepared for these tricky situations.

Tips for tricky situations

To best prepare yourself…

  • Tell people about any preparation they need to do.
  • Let people review and add to the agenda beforehand.
  • Consider other people’s emotions.
  • Don’t let things get aggressive or personal.
  • Know when to call it a day.

Closing and following

Closing the meeting

We’ve covered planning and running your meeting effectively, so now we’re onto the final step – closing and follow-up. Whether your meeting has gone well or not, it’s important to wrap it up productively.

  1. Check everyone is on the same page. Recap what exactly it is you’re taking away from this meeting, and check everyone is in agreement and understands what comes next.
  2. End on a positive. Recapping a good idea or something you found useful in the meeting can be a nice note to end on.
  3. Finish on time. If there are still ideas left, encourage people to email them to you. Add them to future meeting’s agenda, or get back to them individually.

Following up

It doesn’t matter how well a meeting was planned or run if nothing actually comes of it.

  1. Share meeting notes. Even taking and sharing notes in regular one-to-ones lets you track and monitor progress, and keeps you accountable for actions decided.
  2. Do what you promised. Lack of action can undermine confidence in you. If an employee brings up concerns in a meeting and you don’t do anything to address them, they’ll lose trust in you.
  3. Follow up. If you assigned actions during the meeting, check on their progress afterward. This doesn’t necessarily need to be another meeting, an email or instant message would do.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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