How to have a productive meeting in 7 easy steps

This post will outline how to recognise the need for a meeting, invite the right people, build an agenda, and have strict start and end times.

Meetings for meetings’ sake are a waste of time and resources. So this post will outline how to recognise the need for a meeting, invite the right people, build an agenda, and have strict start and end times.

1. Have a clear goal


The first step towards having a productive meeting is to assess whether one is really necessary.

Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve?

If you can’t identify a clear goal, you’re either not ready to call a meeting or you don’t need one.

Having meetings to announce general updates are a drain on time and only interrupt your team’s motivation. Instead, leave these vague topics for company emails and daily memos.


2. Boost innovation outside the office


Let’s face it, meetings can be a drag, especially if everyone is itching to get back to their overflowing in-trays. Moving your meetings somewhere new can help to refresh your team and get those creative juices flowing, without the buzz of the office to distract them.

Take your team to a nearby park or cafe, or book a room in a community building. A step back might be just what everyone needs to start thinking outside the box.


3. Invite the right people


No matter how important your meeting is, remember that your team have given up their valuable time to be there. Asking staff to attend a meeting about a topic that is either irrelevant to them or could be covered in an email is frustrating to them, and is a drain on productivity.

Each attendee should either:

  • Possess the relevant knowledge or skills to make a valuable contribution to the discussion


  • Be in a role that will be directly affected by the changes you propose

Selecting attendees carefully will demonstrate that you respect everyone’s time and value their individual skills. Attendance and timekeeping will also improve if everyone knows they have a vital role to play in the agenda.


4. Have an agenda


Creating an agenda will help you keep discussions focused on the end goal. Your agenda should clearly define the scope of the meeting and can be used to bring the discussion back from any off-topic tangents. Referring back to your agenda will help you to avoid revisiting topics that have already been addressed.

Brainstorming and storytelling can be beneficial in a creative setting, but it’s crucial to stay focused on your end goal. Veering off-topic can really cause a meeting to drag on unnecessarily.

Always circulate your agenda in good time before the meeting to allow everyone adequate time to prepare.


5. Start and finish on time


State your start and finish times in the agenda—and stick to them.

It’s your responsibility to set the precedent for timekeeping. Those extra ten minutes spent waiting around for the chairperson or other employees to arrive is a waste of time and money. It’s also a great way to kill the mood. Those who have made the effort to arrive on time will be frustrated and irritable before the meeting even kicks off.

A definitive end time is equally important. Working to a deadline will encourage everyone to stay focused and keep each other accountable when it comes to irrelevant chit chat and interruptions. This will help ensure you get through your agenda, and everyone will return to work enthused and freshly motivated.


6. Closure and next steps


End your meeting with a summary of the decisions made and detail the next steps. Recap your end goals and identify what further actions are needed to achieve them. Schedule in time for questions. Nobody should leave the meeting feeling uncertain about the outcome or what is expected of them now.

Specific commitments must be made by individuals. Make sure these commitments are clearly defined, and allow reasonable negotiation. Your completion rate will be significantly higher if the deadlines agreed upon are realistic.


7. Follow up


This is the final but most important step in having more productive meetings. End with an action plan and commit to relevant follow-ups. Otherwise, once the meeting is over, it will be like it never happened.

There is no need to circulate the entire minutes after the meeting. A one-page summary of the key points and next steps is sufficient. This is especially important if you’ve cut down on attendees and need to inform the rest of the staff about the meeting’s outcome.

Include who has committed to complete each task and by what deadline to keep everyone accountable.

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