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Effective Meetings

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Below you will find a list of meeting activities and tips.

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Click Here for Counter-Productive Meeting Dynamics



Activities to Build Better Meetings


1. The Meeting from Hell-- 

In this meeting activity ask participants to tell a person next to them about “the worst meeting ever”—the meeting from hell. Relate one or two things that made it the meeting from hell.   Share a few of the best examples with the large group.  

2. Post Your Ideas--  

Give each participant a post-it note and a marker.  Have them write down the one thing that they think is the greatest barrier to good meetings.  Have them put their post-it notes on a sheet in the front of the room.  Once all are posted, summarize  the barriers.  Ask them to discuss strategies or behaviors that will work to overcome meeting barriers.   

3. Accountability Matrix 

Frequently when people leave a meeting, assigned action items are placed on “the back burner” or even forgotten.  Below is a simple chart, the Accountability Matrix, that teams or committees can use to make sure that action items are not forgotten or ignored.  The chart serves as a reminder when it is sent out with the minutes.  Meeting facilitators can take a minute or two at the beginning or end of a meeting to review the Accountability Matrix.  The Matrix serves as a short reminder to get things done.


Point Person(s)

Action Status


On Hold


Collect information on new fans: cost and feasibility.





Talk to plant operations





Clarify vacation policy










4. Meeting Attitude Assessment

Ask each meeting participant to complete a short meeting attitude assessment (See below) . Discuss group reactions to the assessment and then ask what the group can do to have better meetings.

5. Core Meeting Questions

Take a few minutes during your first meeting to answer six core meeting questions...

1. What are the guidelines for attendance and promptness?

2. What are the expectations for active participation?

3. What does it mean to listen and speak thoughtfully?

4. How should decisions be reached? 

5. What responsibilities do team members have for getting things done at meetings?

6. How should team members treat each other at team meetings?

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6. Why Am I Here?

At the start of your first meeting take some time to discuss the value of meetings.  This will help the group to reach an understanding of why they need to pull together to make meetings work.  Below are four sample discussion questions...

1. Why have meetings?

2. How do meetings work to shape the organizational culture?

3. How do meetings strengthen teamwork and build alliances?

4. What is the connection between quality meetings and quality work?

7. Brainstorming Tips

Use part of a meeting to brainstorm for tips to handle the personal meeting concerns listed below.  This is a good way to clarify meeting behaviors.

  • Tips for asserting oneself at a meeting without being offensive

  • Tips for handling resistant or apathetic meeting participants

  • Tips for disagreeing and still getting along

  • Tips for encouraging others to get involved

8. Orient New Members

Assign a "meeting buddy" to explain to new members the expectations and norms for high performance  meetings.

9. Meeting Check

On occasion, take a quick timeout during the course of a meeting and ask the participants if they feel the meeting is progressing well.  If not, ask them how the group can make better use of its energy.

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10. Take a Stand

An emphatic way to test the opinions of a group is to ask them to respond to a set of questions or statements by “voting with their feet.”  Use questions or statements that require one of three positions: 1. Mostly negative, 2. Don’t know, 3 Mostly positive (you can change this set of responses to fit your needs).  Each position has a designated location in the room.  After the facilitator reads a question or statement, participants move to the appropriate location.  

11. Defining Terms

It is often helpful to allow some time to define terms, particularly with terms or words that are broad or open to interpretation.  Frequently, even commonly used words require clarification--words like professionalism, collaboration, engagement, etc.  Ask your group to agree on working definitions.

12. Challenges

When a group has agreed to take an action , it is beneficial to take some time to challenge it.  In other words, try to anticipate objections, concerns, and arguments against the action.  This will make it easier for the group to promote the action.

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13. Survey

After a meeting that included a lively discussion, send a follow up survey to see if members have altered their views.  This can be a very short, easy-to-complete survey.  This kind of follow up keeps participants thinking about the issues.

14. Meeting Buddies

Another meeting follow up idea is to have participants select a partner to meet a few days after the meeting.  When they meet they should check to see if they have additional thoughts or questions about the issues.  Partners should send their thoughts to the facilitator.

15. Meeting Closure

Each meeting must have a beginning, middle, and end.  Hence, all good meetings must move toward meaningful closure.  Get in the habit of including a formal closure period at the end of each meeting. As a group draw conclusions, summarize what has been accomplished, and move from discussion to doing.  Before dismissal, plan post-meeting logistics, next steps, and assign responsibilities, accountability, timetables, and required resources. 

16. 4Ps

I worked with a CEO who used what he called his 4Ps for a meeting.  The 4 P’s stood for Preparedness, Purpose, Process, and Payoff.  He introduced it as a checklist to be used in preparation for any group or team meeting.  Here is his process…

1.       His preparedness checklist included some of the following: Who should be in the meeting? Why? What information do they need from me (or others) to be prepared? By what date should they get the information?

2.       His purpose checklist helped him think about the value of meetings. Some meetings ended up being canceled by simply asking the first two questions on his checklist: Is this meeting important? Why?

3.       When he thought and talked about process, it was in terms of how the meeting would be conducted. Often he used it as a way for participants to not only accomplish important tasks, but to give participants opportunities to do skill building. For example, he would have people rotate roles, such as the meeting chair, the scribe, and the timekeeper. Meeting facilitation training was built into his introduction of the 4 P’s. In other words, he looked for ways to optimize meeting time.

4.       Payoff was the last P. Here he thought about (and challenged others) to think of this in three ways: How does this meeting payoff  for others,  for the organization, and for oneself.  As a consultant to the organization, I saw this part of the template alone increase meeting productivity.  

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17. Clarification Statements. Sometimes after a meeting discussion you may want to clarify participant thinking by asking each member to write down a summarizing statement or recommendation on a 3 x 5 card.  Then ask each participant to read his or her statement to the group.   You may even choose to form a sub group to go through the cards and draw some conclusions to be reported to the full group.

18. The Bright Side It is often a good idea to take part of a meeting to share things that are positive or to articulate those things that are working.  Odd as it might sound, the positive often gets lost at meetings.

19. Stating the Positive Don’t forget to give meeting members an opportunity to express appreciation for a person, idea, happening, etc.  Affirmation is an important "glue" to hold groups together.

20. Group Assessment. On occasion, a group that meets on a regular basis should set aside some meeting time to take a self-assessment.  The group should ask itself, Are our meetings productive? What can we do to make them more productive? 

21. The Best and the Worst. If you are meeting to solve a sticky problem, you might want to take some time to ask the group to articulate the worst case scenario and the best case scenario.  This can help define the problem and set the stage for productive solutions. 

22. Cooling Off.  On occasion meetings can get rather heated.  If it looks like the “battle” is just going to go on and on, call for a time out or cooling off break to allow for cooler heads to prevail.

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Tips for Successful Meetings

We have all been at meetings where we felt our precious time was being wasted.  It is after poorly run meetings that we might agree with the wit who stated that “a meeting is an event where minutes are kept and hours are lost.”  

In fact, poorly run meetings constitute one of the most common complaints in organizations. But meetings are vitally important to an organization.   Leaders understand that meetings are not only essential to the productivity of an organization; they are also an important vehicle to perpetuate the organization’s values and culture.  

Organizational researchers often remind us that meetings do a great deal to shape an employee’s attitude toward work.

After interviewing dozens of business and non-profit leaders, the Workshop Exercises team compiled the following list of tips for successful meetings.

  • Have a clear purpose for the meeting and let people know the purpose ahead of time

  • Prepare an agenda stated is straightforward terms

  • Be prepared—have equipment, materials, handouts, speakers, activities, etc.

  • Challenge the participants, stimulate thought

  • Expect full participation and involvement

  • Establish ground rules for interaction

  • Don’t let one person hog attention

  • Trust participants to contribute good ideas

  • Welcome a diversity of thought

  • Ask real questions

  • Encourage real listening

  • Keep it positive

  • Stay focused on the topic and the agenda

  • Keep it moving

  • Work to closure

  • Summarize key ideas

  • Move to action items

  • Set up the next meeting or action

  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the meeting

 Books for Successful Meetings


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Tips for Meeting Participants

There is nothing worse than a meeting where one person talks and others sit silently with looks of sullen resignation or detachment.  Participants must make an effort to get involved by doing the following:

o Commit to participation

o When you are unsure about something, ask for clarification

o Probe for more information

o Accept and welcome different points of view

o Encourage brainstorming

o Ask open-ended questions

o Be sincere

o Encourage the input of other participants

o Focus on the topic, not on the speaker

o Don’t stray from the agenda

o Maintain a sense of timing, don’t hog time or ramble

o Use meaningful examples

o Avoid long stories that result in minor points

o Be enthusiastic and animated

o Let speakers know that you understand what they mean

o Be aware of what your body language is telling the group

o Avoid sarcasm, condescension, or other put downs

o Be aware of how you sound to others

o Expect to have a successful meeting

o Don’t interrupt

o Listen, listen, listen  

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Virtual Meeting tips

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Meeting Attitude: A Short Self Assessment

The following questionnaire is designed to get you thinking about your “meeting attitude.”  No one will see this questionnaire, so take an honest look at your contribution to your team meetings.  Rate each question using the following scale: 5=always; 4=frequently, but not all the time; 3=some of the time; 2=not very often; 1=almost never.  

Self Rating


1.  1    2    3    4    5

I attend team meetings and I am on time

2.  1    2    3    4    5

When I attend a meeting I feel positive about being there.

3.  1    2    3    4    5

I offer opinions and information (I speak my mind)

4.  1    2    3    4    5

I encourage other participants to contribute their ideas

5.  1    2    3    4    5

I speak to the issues rather than to people

6.  1    2    3    4    5

I volunteer to help out or follow up on action items

7.  1    2    3    4    5

I listen carefully to what is being said

8.  1    2    3    4    5

I see meetings as a positive way to strengthen our team

9.  1    2    3    4    5

I ask others questions to get them to expand on their ideas 

10. 1    2    3    4    5

I participate in meetings as a problem solver.


Total: ________

40 to 50=You are a solid meeting contributor ; 30-39=You contribute, but you may want to get more involved ; 10-29=Reevaluate your attitude toward meetings and work to be more of a meeting contributor.

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