You may think you know how to run a meeting. But it takes more planning and effort than you may be doing now. This checklist of activities to do before, during, and after your meeting tell you exactly how to run an effective meeting that participants will actually enjoy.
No matter what type of meeting you’re leading, it’s critical to run your meetings effectively.
It’s a great way to showcase your leadership skills and move the needle on important projects! This checklist of what to do before, during, and after your meeting will make it easy to run productive meetings every time!
How to Run a Meeting: Before-During-and After
Use the items in the checklist below to have a meeting your peers will love!
Before Your Meeting
When discussing how to run a meeting, there are critical activities you need to do before your meeting. Put in the effort up-front to make your meeting more productive and valuable.
Follow these best practices when planning your meeting.
1. Decide if you need a meeting.
You may be planning a meeting that could be an email instead. Determine if you even need to bring people together or if the discussion can happen another way.
2. Identify your meeting purpose.
You need to know why you’re bringing people together. Even if you know how to run a meeting, not clearly identifying and sharing your purpose makes it hard to plan for a successful meeting. Get clear on the purpose and goals of your meeting. What is it that you want to get out of the meeting? This will help you decide what type of meeting you will hold and structure the meeting for the best results. It will also help you create your agenda and know if your meeting was successful.
3. Invite the right people.
Knowing what you want to get out of the meeting helps you target and invite the right people. Do you need peers for a brainstorming session? Or do you need executives and decision-makers at a project steering committee meeting? Are there participants that are critical, or can a representative attend?
4. Know what you need.
Are you meeting online or in a physical space? Do you need to be able to share materials with everyone? Do you need to collaborate with whiteboards or other tools? Plan ahead of time to have what you need for the meeting.
5. Create an Agenda and share it.
Creating an agenda will help you organize your meeting and let others know what to expect. It will help your meeting run more smoothly and be far more successful. Identify what topics you’ll cover and time-box them if you can. And by sharing your agenda ahead of time, participants know what to expect can prepare.
6. Collaborate with co-facilitators.
Plan with others who will co-facilitate or present during your meeting. This ensures everyone is prepared and knows who is doing what. I’ve seen facilitators add people to the agenda who had no idea they would be presenting. It was very uncomfortable for everyone there.
7. Prepare presentations and other materials.
Give yourself enough lead time to prepare presentations and decks you’ll need for your meeting. And don’t wait till the last minute. Give yourself enough time to walk through them and practice, so you’re ready when presenting in your meeting.
During Your Meeting
You want to know how to run a meeting that is focused and on topic. These are the steps to take during your meeting. You’ll keep your participants on point. You’ll use everyone’s time well. And you’ll come away with clear action items and next steps.
1. Arrive early to prepare.
This is true whether you’re meeting in a physical room or online. Get there early to make sure all technology is working and greet participants.
2. Start on time.
Meetings that waste time are frustrating for everyone. Don’t make it worse by starting late. When you’re known for starting on time, stragglers will adjust their behavior and arrive on time. There may be times you have to wait on a key executive to arrive. But otherwise, be punctual.
3. Make introductions if needed.
Remember that everyone in the room may not know one another. Take a moment to make introductions. The situation will dictate how formal you need to be. You may need everyone to go around the table to introduce themselves. Or a more casual approach may be appropriate.
4. Use an icebreaker if the situation calls for it.
If you’ve got a new team that needs to build trust and rapport quickly, an icebreaker is a perfect way to do it. Icebreakers help team members relax and prompt creativity. They also can help participants build connections that might take longer otherwise.
Icebreakers don’t have to be complicated. Check this list for 15 Easy Team Building Icebreakers for Meetings.
5. Follow the Agenda.
Stay on topic and cover the items you’ve planned.
6. Check the time.
Check the time during the discussion and let others know. If you’re spending too much time on one topic, you need a reminder that you need to move on. This will help everyone stay focused and productive.
7. Take notes.
Meeting notes serve multiple purposes. They capture a record of what the group covered in the meeting. They ensure everyone is in alignment. And you can share them with others who couldn’t attend.
It can be hard to capture great meeting notes, so follow these instructions and use this template for taking great meeting notes.
8. Capture action items and next steps.
If you don’t recognize and capture action items from your meeting, no one will take action and complete them. It’s helpful for anyone completing action items to give a target completion date for each item.
9. Capture decisions.
If you don’t capture decisions made in your meeting, it can be as if they didn’t happen. Document them and share this information.
10. Create a Parking Lot.
Participants might bring up topics during your meeting that don’t align with your agenda. Create a space to capture these items so that you can follow up on them after the meeting.
When someone brings up an “off-topic” item, acknowledge it and let them know you’ll capture it in the “Parking Lot” for later follow-up. At the end of your meeting, read off the Parking Lot items to make sure you captured everything.
After Your Meeting
The meeting activities aren’t over when the meeting is over. You still need to carry out some follow-up activities.
1. Send out notes.
Distribute the meeting notes via email or post them in a shared file location where everyone knows how to access them. This is especially important if the group made important decisions or conducted critical business.
2. Follow up on action items.
Make sure that those responsible are actually completing tasks they’ve committed to. A few days before the due date, send a short note asking about the items’ status. Often, people get busy and forget the action items or the due dates. The advance reminder allows time to complete the task by the deadline still. Assume positive intent, and reach out in a positive way.
3. Follow up on Parking Lot items
If you don’t follow up on Parking Lot items, team members won’t trust you in the future to keep your word. Take action needed to follow up on those items you committed to.
Meetings use valuable time. It’s critical to know how to run a meeting that’s focused and productive. When you take the time to run meetings well, your peers will thank you. And others will trust you as someone who understands the value of time and how to use it well.
If you found this post helpful, you’ll LOVE my book: Bad Meetings Happen to Good People: How to Run Meetings That Are Effective, Focused, and Produce Results