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Robert's Rules of Order Video blog

Simple Tips for Running Great Meetings

Saturday, June 01, 2013 - Susan Leahy

There are few things that feel worse than a meeting where nothing gets done.  People walk out feeling frustrated, angry and upset.  Useless meetings will cause a team to break down forcing them to digress back into a group.  Bad meetings are bad news for building strong teams.  

Here are a few easy tips to keep your meetings on track to support the success of your team.

Step #1:  Have a pre-written agenda

Wait don't stop reading.  I know you have heard this before.  But whether the meeting is formal or informal, short or long, have a written agenda and then stick to it. 

Included in your agenda should be items such as:

-Start Time & End Time
People like to know when the meeting is going to start but more importantly when it is going to end.  Work to start all meetings on time and never let your meetings run over.  Nothing says, “I disrespect your time” more than a meeting that runs over!


Having meeting participants' names on your agenda can create accountability.  Members can’t be anonymous.  Make sure that people who are attending the meeting really need to be there, you don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

-Information Items with TIME FRAME

People are good at talking. Be sure that you have a space for people to give information, but you dictate exactly how much.  By giving people a time frame, people will have to consider what information to add and more importantly what information to not add.

-Action Items
This is where business and decisions take place.  Make certain that if there is a decision that needs to be made by the time the meeting has adjourned that everyone knows the action items of the meeting.  There is nothing more frustrating then getting to the action items and running out of time.  

Step #2: Review the agenda at the beginning of the meeting

This step seems simple but many facilitators think that since they passed the agenda out beforehand that they do not have to read the agenda aloud.  That is a very big mistake. Start the meeting by reading the complete agenda. 

This accomplishes several things.  

A. It gets everyone on the same page and ready for the meeting.

B. Many companies have a problem with people showing up late.  Reading the agenda buys the facilitator a little bit of time so that he or she will not have to repeat as much when people walk in late.    

C. Facilitating a meeting is not an easy task and makes many people
nervous.  If you are facilitating a meeting reading the agenda allows you to do something that will help to focus you and to help you manage your nerves so you can have a successful meeting.

Reading the entire agenda at the beginning of the meeting is a great facilitation tool that many Chairs miss out on.  Read that agenda.

Step #3:  Ask for participation

Sometimes in meetings it is not uncommon to hear from the same people over and over again.  We need to find ways to not discourage those who actively participate but find ways to encourage others to participate.  Here is an example of a couple of things a person chairing a meeting can say to stimulate discussion from people who are not participating and to manage those who are participating too much:

“I have noticed that there are several people we have yet to hear from.  Does anyone we have not heard from have something to add?”

“These are all great points but is there anyone with a different opinion we haven’t heard from yet?”

“I would like to encourage those we have yet to hear from to please share their understanding of the topic at hand?”

Great meetings include the voices of both the majority and the minority, the loud and the soft-spoken.  It is crucial that members feel comfortable to and are invited to participate.

Step #4:  Teach Parliamentary Procedure

If you are running a formal meeting using Parliamentary Procedure it is essential that you teach your members how to use it properly.  Members do not have to become experts they need to understand the basics.  For example, the instructional DVD "Driving the Language of Parliamentary Procedure" reviews the 7 Fundamental Motions used during most meetings.  Teach your members the basics first.  Many groups spend the year fighting with the tool instead of taking the time to learn it.  Bring in someone to teach it or provide training tools such as Driving the Language of Parliamentary Procedure.  But remember even Parliamentary Procedure is a team tool it is no good if only one person knows how to use it!

While this list can go on forever it is essential to remember that nothing de-motivates people more then meetings where work doesn’t get done.  If you want to be a TEAM you have to run great meetings!

Susan Leahy MA. ABS turns groups into teams through increasing communication, improving meetings and driving results.  Susan conducts keynotes, workshops and full day retreat for her clients across the country. Contact Susan directly for more information.

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