How to Run a More Effective Meeting (2023)

Illustrations by Antoine Corbineau

We’ve all been stuck in a bad meeting. You arrive on time only to have the meeting start 10 minutes late. The agenda? Unclear. The person in charge? Also. Some people start to offer ideas, others shoot them down. Nothing is really decided and the meeting wraps up, as you silently lament the lost hour. There is a better way. Over the course of speaking to more than 500 chief executives for my weekly Corner Office column, I have learned the rules to running an effective meeting. These tips and strategies can work for anyone, regardless of title.

The Three Rules of Running a Meeting

Set the Agenda

“Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there, because if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, then there’s no reason for a meeting.” —Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network.

It may seem like an obvious requirement, but a lot of meetings start with no clear sense of purpose. The meeting’s agenda can be summarized on a handout, written on a whiteboard or discussed explicitly at the outset, but everyone should know why they’ve gathered and what they’re supposed to be accomplishing. The agenda provides a compass for the conversation, so the meeting can get back on track if the discussion wanders off course.

If leaders make sure there is an agenda before a meeting starts, everyone will fall in line quickly.

“If I don’t have an agenda in front of me, I walk out,” said Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network. “Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there, because if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, and you don’t know why we’re there, then there’s no reason for a meeting. It’s very important to me to focus people and to keep them focused, and not just get in the room and talk about who won the Knicks game last night.”

Start on Time. End on Time.

Nothing can drain the energy from a room quite like waiting for the person in charge to show up. Why do so many in positions of power fall into the bad habit of being late for meetings? Is it just that they’re so busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone waiting for them, a reminder that their time is somehow more valuable than everyone else’s?

Time is money, of course, and all that sitting around and trying to guess when the boss may arrive is a waste of a precious resource. When establishing the informal rules of an organization, employees take their cues from the person in the corner office. If that person wants meetings to start on time, meetings will start on time.

Terry Lundgren, the chairman of Macy’s, has never hesitated to enforce a strict policy of on-time meetings. “If the meeting is at 8, you’re not here at 8:01, you’re here at 8, because the meeting’s going to start at 8,” he said. “Busy people that can’t get off the last phone call to get there, [need to] discipline themselves to be there on time.”J

Just as important as starting on time is ending on time. A definitive end time will help ensure that you accomplish what’s on your agenda and get people back to their work promptly. “I like to have an agenda that we think through,” Mr. Lundgren added, “and we say, ‘This meeting’s going to go for two hours,’ and we force ourselves to carve through the agenda.’”

End with an Action Plan

Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps. This discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. Otherwise, all the time you spent on the meeting will be for naught.

(Video) 8 Tips for Running More Effective Meetings | The Distilled Man

Shellye Archambeau, chief executive of MetricStream, a firm that helps companies meet compliance standards, likes to end her meetings by asking, “Who’s got the ball?”

“When you’re in sports, and the ball is thrown to you, then you’ve got the ball, and you’re now in control of what happens next,” she said. “You own it. It becomes a very visible concept for making sure that there’s actually ownership to make sure things get done.”

Mark Toro, managing partner of North American Properties – Atlanta, a real estate operating company, uses a phrase to end meetings that has become a common acronym in office e-mails: W.W.D.W.B.W., which stands for “Who will do what by when?”

“If somebody says during a meeting, ‘We’ve got to get this lease signed,’ everybody knows what the follow-up question is going to be. I type the acronym so often in emails — “W.W.D.W.B.W.” — that my phone just auto-fills it. So we’ve trained ourselves and each other, but we’re also trying to do it with people we work with. We developed a system where before we hang up the phone with somebody, we’ll say, ‘When do you think I can have that?’ We track people who deliver and those who don’t.”

More on Running a Meeting

Leadership Means Learning to Look Behind the MaskJanuary 30, 2016
Executive Women, Finding (and Owning) Their VoiceNovember 13, 2014

Give Everyone a Role

“We’re very clear at the beginning of every meeting whether it’s one person’s decision, or whether it’s more of a discussion to reach consensus.” —Carl Bass, the former chief executive of Autodesk.

Establish Ground Rules

Ask yourself, “What is the role of the meeting participants?” The more clarity you can provide about what you want to get out of them, the better; people are more likely to contribute if they know what role they’re supposed to play. Is the point of the meeting to give out orders? To brainstorm? To discuss a plan of action?To help you clarify the type of meeting you are running, try one of the strategies from these leaders or use them as inspiration to develop one of your own:

Light Bulb or Gun?

Be clear whether your thoughts are an idea or a command. Dawn Lepore, the former chief of, sometimes used this framework as lighthearted shorthand for the goal of her meetings: “People don’t always know if you mean something as just an idea, or you want them to go do it. A light bulb means this is just an idea I had, so think about it. A gun is, I want you to do this.”

Type 1, 2 or 3

Who gets to make the final decision on an issue? Sheila Lirio Marcelo, chief executive of, a company that helps people find caregivers, developed this system to signal who’s responsible:“Type 1 decisions are the decision-maker’s sole decision — dictatorial. Type 2: People can provide input, and then the person can still make the decision. Type 3: It’s consensus. It’s a great way to efficiently solve a problem.”

My Decision, or Consensus?

Not all decisions are made by consensus. One of a leader’s main responsibilities is to get as many opinions as possible on the table. But you have to be clear when you’re just soliciting input.Carl Bass, the former chief executive of Autodesk, said there is often a built-in tension in encouraging people to share their opinions, as it may lead them to believe a decision will come down to a democratic vote. Here’s how he addresses it up front:“We’re very clear at the beginning of every meeting whether it’s one person’s decision, or whether it’s more of a discussion to reach consensus,” he said. “I think it’s a really valuable thing to understand because otherwise people can feel frustrated that they gave out their opinions but they don’t understand the broader context for the final decision.”

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(Video) Efficient Meetings - 7 Tips To Run an Effective Meeting

Control the Meeting, Not the Conversation

Let Them Speak

“Your job as a leader is to be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting.” —David M. Cote, the executive chairman of Honeywell.

If you’re running a meeting, be crystal clear on the agenda and on what you want to accomplish, but then it’s time to be quiet and let others speak. If you share your thoughts first, you’re likely going to look around a table of nodding heads, with people saying they completely agree with your instincts.

It’s a lesson that Navin Nagiah, chief of DNN, a web content software company, said he has learned.

“Sometimes I have all the information about a particular item beforehand, and there are times when I’ve stated the conclusion first,” he said. “Once you state the conclusion, there’s no discussion. You don’t get anybody else’s perspective, and those perspectives are still important for you to understand the business or other decisions. So you have to hold yourself back.”

Here is a useful reminder from David M. Cote, the former chief executive of Honeywell.

“Your job as a leader is to be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting,” he said. “It’s your job to flush out all the facts, all the opinions, and at the end make a good decision, because you’ll get measured on whether you made a good decision, and not whether it was your idea from the beginning.”

More on Hearing All Opinions

Want Teamwork? Encourage Free SpeechApril 12, 2014
Hearing Every Voice in the RoomDecember 6, 2014
When You’re in Charge, Your Whisper May Feel Like a ShoutAugust 15, 2015
Lisa Gersh of Goop: Treat Meetings Like Improv SessionsJune 24, 2016

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Make Everyone Contribute

(Video) 7 Tips For Running More Effective Meetings

Manage Personalities

“If you’re not going to participate, then that means you’re just sponging off the rest of us.” —Julie Greenwald, the chairwoman and chief operating officer of Atlantic Records.

There are three common dynamics in a large meeting:

  • A few people like to showboat and dominate the conversation, while others hang back.
  • Some people volunteer ideas, while others only offer criticism.
  • People are reluctant to offer opinions that go beyond their area of expertise or their rank within an organization.

Any one of these scenarios can lead to people censoring themselves, which leads to a lost opportunity to get the best ideas and make the smartest decisions.

Here are some ways some chief executives make sure everyone is contributing:

Pile It On

Kathleen Finch, chief programming, content and brand officer at Scripps Networks Interactive, likes to hold a meeting every few months that she calls a “pile-on meeting.”

“I bring about 25 people into a room and go over all the different projects that are coming up in the next six months, and everybody piles on with their ideas to make those projects as successful as they can be,” she said. “The rule walking into the meeting is you must forget your job title. I don’t want the marketing person just talking about marketing. I want everyone talking about what they would do to make this better. It is amazing what comes out of those meetings.”

Be Vulnerable

Julie Greenwald, the chairwoman and chief operating officer of Atlantic Records, sets the tone for her discussions by talking about vulnerability and risk.“

In meetings, I constantly talk about how we have to be vulnerable, and that it’s not fair for some people to just sit or stand along the wall and not participate. If you’re not going to participate, then that means you’re just sponging off the rest of us,” she said.

“I’ll throw out ideas. Some of them will be horrible, and I’ll let people tell me that was the wackiest idea on the planet, and we’ll get through it. They won’t get fired. And then I’ll say to others, ‘O.K., what’s your idea?’ It’s important for everyone to understand we’re a company where risk-taking is necessary.”

Make Everyone a Judge

To make sure everyone shares their honest opinion try this clever tactic from John Nottingham and John Spirk, who run Nottingham Spirk, an innovation and product design firm. All it takes are some index cards and pens.

  1. Lead a brainstorming session and put the ideas on a wall or whiteboard.
  2. Give everyone three index cards: One says, “Wow,” another says, “Nice,” and the third says, “Who cares?” Everybody sits around the table with their cards face down.
  3. Someone gets up to pitch one of the ideas on the wall.
  4. The meeting attendees then hold up the card that best expresses their feelings about the idea.

“If everybody says ‘Wow,’ you’re going to keep that idea,” Mr. Nottingham said. “That’s easy, but it doesn’t happen a lot. So another idea is presented, and everybody may hold up the cards that say, ‘Who cares?’ So you take that product and just shove it off the table. It’s not going to work.”

According to Mr. Nottingham, the worst card is often “Nice.” Someone can produce a nice product, but it’s not going to move the needle, he says. “Too often, too many nice products get produced.”

Everyone should hold up their card at the same time, so there are no influencers in the room. If there’s one person in the meeting and he answers one way, everyone is going to follow suit, Mr. Nottingham says.

Make Meetings Essential

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Do a Meeting Audit

“One of the things I do on a quarterly basis is to review the standing meetings on my calendar, and every one of them ought to be able defend itself,” —Lew Cirne, the chief of New Relic, a software analytics company.

You’ve heard of “mission creep?” It refers to a gradual shift in goals during a battle or some other military campaign, often leading to a long-term commitment that was never part of the original plan.

A similar problem is “meeting creep,” a phenomenon in which, without you even noticing, your schedule starts filling up over weeks and months with new meetings that then become routine.

To keep meetings in check, do a meeting audit every few months. Ask yourself whether each meeting is the best use of everyone’s precious time. It’s an approach that Lew Cirne, the chief of New Relic, a software analytics company, puts into regular practice.

“One of the things I do on a quarterly basis is to review the standing meetings on my calendar, and every one of them ought to be able defend itself,” he said. “The point is not to keep going to that meeting just because you always have to go. I ask myself ‘Why?’ and I encourage my managers to question their calendars, too.”

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Cancel Them All

Want to try a more drastic measure? You could borrow a page from Stewart Butterfield, chief of Slack, the messaging service for teams, and cancel your regular meetings to see which ones you miss and want to restore.

People can go to work every day for a year and not really get anything done because they’re just doing the things that they felt they were supposed to be doing,” Mr. Butterfield said. “We just went through this process of canceling almost every recurring meeting that we had, to see which ones we really needed. We probably do need some of the ones we canceled, and they’ll come back — but we’ll wait until we actually need them again.”

Make on Making Meetings Important

When You’ve Had One Meeting Too ManyFebruary 16, 2013
4 Ways to Be More Effective in MeetingsMarch 6, 2017
The Modern Meeting: Call In, Turn Off, Tune OutDecember 4, 2015

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(Video) Running Effective Meetings


What are the 4 P's of effective meetings? ›

Use this template to identify and explain the 4 Ps required to run an effective meeting: Purpose, Product, People, and Process.

How do you run a meeting effectively? ›

  2. Top 5 Rules of a Good Meeting.
  3. Set goal(s) for the meeting and prepare an agenda.
  4. Arrange all logistics.
  5. Send out announcements, invitations, and reminders for meeting.
  6. Be courteous, respectful, and inclusive.
  7. Bring closure.
  8. Facilitator's Role.

What are the five rules to running an effective meeting? ›

  • 1 Come prepared. It goes without saying that a ground rule you should have in place for your team to follow is to come prepared for every meeting. ...
  • 2 Show up on time. ...
  • 3 Be present. ...
  • 4 Start on a positive note. ...
  • 5 Follow the agenda. ...
  • 6 Create an inclusive environment. ...
  • 7 Be solution-focused. ...
  • 8 Always assume positive intent.
14 Jun 2021

What are the 7 ground rules for effective meetings? ›

  • State views and ask genuine questions. ...
  • Share all relevant information. ...
  • Use specific examples and agree on what important words mean. ...
  • Explain reasoning and intent. ...
  • Focus on interests, not positions. ...
  • Test assumptions and inferences. ...
  • Jointly design next steps. ...
  • Discuss undiscussable issues.
15 Jun 2016

What are the 7 steps in planning a meeting? ›

7 Step Meeting Process
  • Clarify Aim/Purpose.
  • Assign Roles.
  • Review Agenda.
  • Work through Agenda.
  • Review meeting record.
  • Plan Next Steps and Next Agenda.
  • Evaluate.

What are the three P's of effective meetings? ›

By applying the three P's—purpose, people, and process—you can get back some of that most precious of resources: your time.

What are three 3 guidelines for conducting effective meetings? ›

The Three Rules of Running a Meeting
  • Set the Agenda. ...
  • Start on Time. ...
  • End with an Action Plan. ...
  • More on Running a Meeting.

What are 3 components of an effective meeting? ›

Effective meetings need structure, order and ground rules. Without these elements, they can go on forever and not accomplish a thing.

How do you run an effective 10 step meeting? ›

10 tips on running effective meetings
  1. Set a clear objective.
  2. Create a meeting agenda the day before.
  3. Invite everyone to collaborate on the agenda.
  4. Add talking points.
  5. Assign a note-taker.
  6. Take your own private notes during the meeting.
  7. Add action items in real time.
  8. Customize your meeting.
5 Aug 2022

What should you not do in a meeting? ›

Here are 10 things you should never do in a meeting:
  • Show Up Late. Nothing says “I'm disorganized” like walking into a meeting already in progress. ...
  • Be Unprepared. ...
  • Monopolize the Conversation. ...
  • Make Your Statements Sound Like Questions. ...
  • Misread Signals. ...
  • Get Intimidated. ...
  • Chew Gum. ...
  • Keep Your Cell Phone On.
22 Nov 2009

What are the six steps to organize productive meetings? ›

Here are a few steps to successfully organize productive meetings.
  1. Set the purpose and goals of your meeting. ...
  2. Plan an agenda beforehand. ...
  3. Get attendees prepared for your meeting. ...
  4. Keep track of meeting notes. ...
  5. Conclude your meeting and share your thoughts. ...
  6. The Real Problem Isn't Time.
15 Apr 2022

What are the four questions to lead a meeting? ›

Getting Started with Four Types of Questions- ORID

ORID is derived from the four levels of inquiry: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional. As individuals, we go through all of these levels internally when making decisions. However, everyone places emphasis on a different stage of the process.

What is a checklist for a meeting? ›

Write the purpose of the meeting and determine necessary, active discussion points. List decisions that must be made during the meeting. Include space for meeting notes, next steps, and task assignment in your agenda. Create an agenda and share a link to it in a calendar invite.

What are the four 4 purposes of minutes of meetings? ›

Inform absent team members of the discussion and decisions made. Serve as a record of discussions for future reference. Provide “takeaways” for meetings that are informational. Supply reminders of action steps.

What are the three styles of meetings? ›

Three kinds of meetings
  • Information. This is a meeting where attendees are informed about what is happening (with or without their blessing). ...
  • Discussion. This is a meeting where the leader actually wants feedback or direction or connections. ...
  • Permission.
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What are six things that may be on an agenda for a meeting? ›

To guarantee that you're meeting are productive, you need to create an agenda that contains the following six components.
  • Agenda Header. The agenda header is used to identify the following items: ...
  • Key Objective. ...
  • Input. ...
  • The Meeting Work Plan. ...
  • Allocate Time. ...
  • Follow Up.
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What are the four steps needed for conducting a meeting? ›

What are the steps needed to conduct a meeting?
  • Set a clear objective. Prior to the start of the meeting, make sure you have a clearly defined purpose and objective for holding the meeting. ...
  • Consider your attendees. ...
  • Start and end the meeting on time. ...
  • Follow your schedule. ...
  • Follow up.

What is a key factor to running a good meeting? ›

Consistency is a key component to holding successful meetings. It's important to hold meetings at the same time, keep them short—ideally a half hour—and focused. Having guidelines in place helps ensure that meetings are valuable for everyone.

What are the key features of a good meeting? ›

The 6 Qualities Meetings Need to Have to Be Effective
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  • Participants shall come prepared to the meeting.
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What are the 3 basic golden rules? ›

Golden rules of accounting
  • Rule 1: Debit all expenses and losses, credit all incomes and gains.
  • Rule 2: Debit the receiver, credit the giver.
  • Rule 3: Debit what comes in, credit what goes out.
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How do you be respectful in a meeting? ›

Respectful Meeting Etiquette
  1. Dress appropriately. Professional appearance is crucial to the tone of the meeting. ...
  2. Listen and Focus. Leave your non-related business at your desk and do your best to arrive at the meeting with a clear mind and an open ear. ...
  3. Come alone. ...
  4. Take notes. ...
  5. Stay on topic.
13 Jan 2017

What is the number 1 Golden Rule? ›

1. Common Observations and Tradition. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This seems the most familiar version of the golden rule, highlighting its helpful and proactive gold standard.

How do you lead meetings confidently? ›

Strategies to Speak Confidently in Meetings
  1. BANISH PRE-MEETING JITTERS. Your hands are shaky. ...
  2. EASE INTO IT. ...

What does a successful meeting look like? ›

An effective meeting brings a thoughtfully selected group of people together for a specific purpose, provides a forum for open discussion, and delivers a tangible result: a decision, a plan, a list of great ideas to pursue, a shared understanding of the work ahead.

What do CEOS talk about in meetings? ›

Leaders give updates on each department, make announcements, and align around the company's mission and strategy. It's a great chance to recognise key milestones and acknowledge the team's hard work every week by showing what they're working on. It's also an opportunity for employees to put questions to leaders.

What are the 4 types of minutes? ›

There are three forms of standard minutes: Action minutes. Discussion minutes. Verbatim minutes.

What makes a meeting boring? ›

There are many reasons people get bored in meetings. One is that meetings are often simply too long. Battle meeting fatigue by setting a strict agenda and sticking to it, limiting the amount of time everyone has for presentations. Work frequent breaks into the schedule.

What should you not say in a team meeting? ›

Just remember the phrases that are an absolute no-no in any meeting.
  • I don't have time. ...
  • It's not my job. ...
  • No problem. ...
  • It's impossible. ...
  • I understand what you're saying, but… ...
  • With all due respect. ...
  • You could have… ...
  • I'll try.

What is the 4 P framework? ›

The four Ps are a “marketing mix” comprised of four key elements—product, price, place, and promotion—used when marketing a product or service. Typically, businesses consider the four Ps when creating marketing plans and strategies to effectively market to their target audience.

What are the 4 P's often referred to as? ›

The four Ps of marketing—product, price, place, promotion—are often referred to as the marketing mix. These are the key elements involved in planning and marketing a product or service, and they interact significantly with each other.

What is the most important out of the 4 P's? ›

I believe this highlights why the product is the most important aspect of the four P's of marketing – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Without a product, you cannot implement any one of the other three elements of the marketing mix. And great products are easy to market as they serve both a need and want.

What are the four 4ms? ›

The 4 M's are: make, manage, monitor, and measure. These principles are especially relevant for social media and influencer marketing, which are crucial for succeeding today. Make - This doesn't refer to making products (even if that's part of what you do) but connecting brand influencers and potential customers.

What is 5cs analysis? ›

The 5c's of marketing are a commonly-used situation analysis technique used to help marketers make informed business decisions. The "5 C's" stand for Company, Customers, Competitors, Collaborators, and Climate. In a nutshell, a 5c analysis will help you evaluate the most important factors facing your business.

What are the 4 C's framework? ›

The 4Cs (Clarity, Credibility, Consistency, Competitiveness) is most often used in marketing communications and was created by David Jobber and John Fahy in their book 'Foundations of Marketing' (2009).

What is the 3cs framework? ›

The 3 Cs are: Company, Customers and Competitors - the three semi-fixed environmental factors in your market.

What are the 4 selling strategies? ›

The four basic sales strategies salespeople use are script-based selling, needs-satisfaction selling, consultative selling, and strategic-partner selling. Different strategies can be used with in different types of relationships.

What is 7Ps marketing mix? ›

The 7Ps of marketing are – product, pricing, place, promotion, physical evidence, people, and processes.

What is meant by promotion mix? ›

What is a promotional mix? A promotional mix is a combination of marketing methods including advertising, sales, public relations and direct marketing to achieve a specific marketing goal.

Why 4 C's are better than 4Ps? ›

The 4 P's focus on a seller-oriented marketing strategy, which can be extremely effective for sales. However, the 4 C's offer a more consumer-based perspective on the marketing strategy.

What is the problem with 4Ps? ›

The 4Ps of marketing under-emphasize the importance of building a convincing case to explain the value of the solution being sold (i.e., not enough time is spent educating customers on why the product is needed). It distracts businesses from leveraging their advantage as a trusted source of problem solving.

What are the 4 m of management? ›

How? By implementing best practices that address the 4Ms of Machines, Manpower, Methods, and Material.

What is 4M technique? ›

The 4M is a method that allows to identify and group causes that impact to a specific effect. 4M categories (Material, Method, Machine, Man) are often used in the Cause-Effect Diagram created by Kaoru Ishikawa [9]. It is a good, intermediate tool of problem analysis.

What are the M's of management? ›

The key factors of production that revolve around management are known as the 5 Ms of Management. They include – Manpower, Money, Materials, Machinery and Methods.


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