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5 Steps to an Effective Meeting

5 Steps to an Effective Meeting

Meeting Illustration

You call a meeting to discuss ways to reduce the budget. At the meeting, you have three people discussing ideas, two people with confused looks on their faces, and three others either doodling or staring into space. What’s going on here?

Meetings are a necessity in today’s workplace, but many could be more engaging and more efficient. Steve Kaye, a California-based author ­­of hundreds of meeting guides at, gives these five steps toward productive meetings, and Glenn Hamamura, principal consultant at Mililani-based Systems Excellence LLC, adds some local input. Both are certified by the International Association of Facilitators.

Identify Goals
Figure out the goals of the meeting, and then write them out. “This is a critical step, because when you write something down, it becomes real,” Kaye says. “Many people just imagine a goal. Then they hope that everybody, through some amazing clairvoyant process, comes to the meeting imagining the same goal.” This doesn’t need to be a group meeting in itself. Just think of what you want to get done out of your meeting.

Identify Key Players
Ideally, a group of eight to 12 people should attend a meeting, but can range between four and 16. “Beyond either one, you either have too few for a critical mass of effective thinking, or you have too many to accomplish anything useful,” Kaye says. Next, talk about the goals of the meeting and their ideas. You might realize you don’t need a meeting after all. Spectators should not be invited. “Things get complicated when these spectators try to participate on issues that they know nothing about. The real participants end up wasting time educating,” Kaye says. The size of the meeting also depends on the goals of the meeting. “Decision-making meetings tend to be smaller so that the invited parties can participate freely,” Hamamura says. “Informa­­tional meetings could be larger in size.”

Prepare an Agenda
Write up an agenda that is so concise and specific anyone can pick it up and run the meeting. Don’t write vague phrases like, “Reduce the budget.” “What does that mean?” Kaye says. “Does reduce the budget mean cut out my department’s material? Does it mean reduce capital spending? Does it mean reduce operations of one of our facilities? It can mean anything to anybody.”

Engage Everyone
“Most meetings feature only those who are quick thinkers or loud talkers,” Kaye says. “And while those people are showing off, the rest of the people in the room are sitting there bored, daydreaming or doodling.” These people know that if they were somewhere else, they could be getting work done. Also, when everyone has a say in what’s going on, they’ll believe there was a fair process. They weren’t forced or convinced into the solution, and they’ll support the idea.

Document Results
Publish the minutes. They should be brief and concise and not a script of the whole meeting. “They are something that a busy executive can read in less than a minute,” Kaye says. Those in charge of the meeting should follow up on the plan, preferably by phone or face to face. Don’t just send a memo and hope something happens, Kaye says. Hamamura adds that the follow-up should be done in one business day to create a sense of urgency to the task.

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