Do you dread meeting notifications popping up on your screen? Does the thought of another pointless discussion leave you feeling exhausted and defeated?

Join the club.

Countless professionals are trapped in a cycle of unproductive meetings, feeling like they’re losing precious time without ever getting anything done.

There is a solution. Turn your meetings around, starting with a few key points and best practices for meetings:

  • Meetings should be used for decision-making, not information sharing. Information sharing can often be done more efficiently via email or other communication channels.
  • Every meeting should have a clear purpose and outcomes. What do you hope to achieve by the end of the meeting? Once you know the end goal, you can plan your agenda and invite only the people who are essential to the discussion.
  • Preparation is key. Before the meeting, spend time preparing an agenda and share it with all attendees. This way everyone is informed and can be prepared to contribute.
  • Start on time and stick to the agenda. It’s important to respect everyone’s time by keeping the meeting on track. If you need to modify the agenda, be sure to do so at the beginning of the meeting and adjust the time accordingly.
  • Encourage participation. Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable participating in the discussion. Ask questions, solicit feedback, and actively listen to the ideas of others.
  • Take notes and assign action items. During the meeting, take clear and concise notes. Capture any decisions that are made and assign action items to specific individuals. After the meeting, share the notes with all attendees so everyone is on the same page.

By following these tips, you can start to run meetings that are more effective and efficient. Not only will it save you time, but it will also improve productivity and boost morale.

Best Practices for Meetings

Setting the Stage for Success: Defining Purpose and Outcome

It is crucial to establish the foundation for productive meetings. This starts with clarity on two key aspects: purpose and outcome.

Always start with the end in mind.
Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself: “What specific decision(s) do we need to make in order to move forward?” This question becomes the purpose of your meeting, guiding the entire agenda and ensuring everyone is focused on achieving a concrete goal.

Outcomes rather than activities.
Don’t just aim to “have a meeting.” Instead, define a clear outcome you want to achieve. This could be finalizing a project plan, resolving a specific issue, or simply ensuring everyone is aligned on the next steps. Frame your meeting around this desired outcome to keep everyone working towards a shared objective.

By establishing a clear purpose and desired outcome, you’ve laid the groundwork for successful meetings. Now, let’s explore how to translate that into action.

When to Meet and Why

Not every situation warrants a meeting. Understanding the different purposes meetings can serve helps you decide when a meeting is truly necessary and choose the right format for the situation. Here are the three key reasons to meet:

  1. Information Sharing: While meetings can be a tool for sharing information, it’s important to consider if there are more efficient alternatives. If the information is simple and straightforward, an email or document might suffice. However, for complex information requiring a thorough walkthrough and clarification to ensure everyone grasps the nuances, a meeting might be necessary.
  2. Building Understanding: When dealing with intricate projects or situations, meetings play a crucial role in building understanding among team members. A well-facilitated discussion allows everyone to share their perspectives, ask questions, and gain a clear picture of the task at hand. This shared understanding is the foundation for effective collaboration and decision-making.
  3. Building Agreements: This is where the magic happens: building agreements that move projects forward. However, reaching agreements relies on having successfully achieved the first two objectives: sharing information and building understanding. Teams often underestimate the time and effort required to ensure effective information sharing and understanding, which is a major reason why meetings can run longer than anticipated.

By understanding the true purpose of meetings and utilizing alternative communication channels when appropriate, you can ensure your meetings are focused on the essential tasks: building understanding and reaching agreements.

Planning: The Key to Efficiency

The old adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” rings especially true when it comes to meetings. Effective planning will ensure everyone is prepared and the meeting stays on track. By following these planning principles, your meetings will be well-organized and efficient, allowing you to maximize the time spent together.

Planning time rule of thumb
Aim for 1:1 prep time to meeting time. This means dedicating roughly the same amount of time to planning as the actual meeting duration. This ensures everyone comes prepared to contribute and minimizes wasted time clarifying information or context.

Complexity, conflict, intense emotions and group size
While a 1:1 prep-to-meeting ratio is a good starting point, remember that more complex topics require exponentially more prep time. The more intricate the discussion or the more people involved, the more upfront planning is necessary to navigate the meeting smoothly. A great one day meeting with 50 executives discussing highly stakes topics will have at least a 4-5:1 ratio of preparation. 

Roles for Effective Meetings

Effective meetings start with a clear understanding of participant roles. Determine who will do what during the meeting in advance.

Facilitator: Guides the discussion and keeps the meeting on track.
Timer: Enforces time limits for each agenda item.
Recorder: Captures notes, especially agreements and action items, for follow-up communication.
Participants: Actively engage, contribute ideas, and work towards achieving the meeting’s goal.

Meeting Outputs: Capture Agreements and Action Items

Always document decisions and action items throughout the meeting. This ensures everyone is on the same page and tasks get completed.

Make sure to keep note of who will be doing what and by what date. After the meeting, send a recap of the meeting notes to all participants to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Our template, linked below, contains an example of how to capture action items.

Weekly Meetings Require Special Rules

The routine nature of weekly meetings post specific challenges. Familiarity can breed complacency and a casual nature that encourages socialization, rather than productivity. Weekly meetings require a specific format to ensure they result in the intended outcomes.

Start with a Friday Planning Session 

The Friday planning session should only be 15-20 minutes and include key participants. The goal of the planning session is to ensure everyone is on the same page for kicking off the next week:

  • Decide on the outcome for the weekly meeting.
  • Determine what prework is needed to achieve that outcome (e.g., reading materials, questions to answer, preparation for specific topics).
  • Encourage team members to come ready to share a success/progress update to start the meeting on a positive note.

As part of this strategic gem, we have a template and sample agenda to help you organize your weekly meeting.

Weekly Meeting Agenda Template


Many meetings feel like a waste of time because they have no clear goal or agenda. With a little preparation, meetings no longer have to be a headache.

Additional Resources

InterAction Associates provides some of the best meeting management program.

How to Make Meetings Work by Michael Doyle and David Straus.

Remember, Suffering is Optional

We are here to help. Contact us to discuss a solution.