Meetings… love ’em or hate ’em, they’re not going away any time soon. Most of us long to get meaningful work done during meetings, but the distractions, disruptions, and lack of meeting management derails us. Leverage your frustration with poor meetings as a catalyst to upgrade your skills in leading successful meetings.

It all starts with preparation.

These tips can help you get ready to lead your next meeting, whether that’s at work, at home, or in your community. Use these three steps to give your meetings a makeover.

1. Define Clear Objectives

The first question you should ask yourself in preparation for your meeting is, “What is the most important thing we need to accomplish?”

Answering this question will help you define the objectives for the meeting and the information needed to work on those issues. You’ll probably have several issues to discuss, so be clear on what is most important and leave plenty of time for that subject.

You can also ask: “What conversations need happen first?” to help you prioritize.

Develope the meeting agenda to meet these objectives. This helps to set you up for success as you move through the rest of the preparation process. Even if you are not in charge of the meeting, you can send suggested objectives to help support other’s leadership. This is key way to influence the outcome before the meeting begins, even if your not in charge. You can also gather information needed to inform decisions, or communicate relevant data outward as a meeting leader or participant.

Once objectives are established you can start thinking about how you’ll evaluate the meeting’s success, what outcomes you’re looking for, and how to keep everyone on the same page.

Your clear objectives will help you to structure the conversations during the meeting, and support good facilitation.

2. Organize the Conversation

Bombarding people with information the second they walk through the door doesn’t usually get the results you want… Instead, try to help everyone get in the right mindset before launching into the discussion. Hearing a brief introduction to the issues and what is important to address today brings everyone into the same conversation.

Once you’ve introduced everyone to the main objective, find a way to create a logical flow of sub topics that build as the meeting progresses. Maybe at the beginning participants thought one these issues one way, but by the end of a meaningful meeting, they may see things in a whole new light!

There may also be people in attendance who steer the conversation in a different direction, over participate, or pull the discussion to a place that’s completely irrelevant. Plan for ways to get the meeting back on track, and the courage to intervene with grace.

One great way to regain control of the meeting is to ask a question about the objective. It will direction everyone’s attention back to thinking about the main issue and away from any off-topic conversations.

3. Include Variety

Sitting at a table for an hour or more listening to someone else talk can often result in …. zzzzz. So keep your meeting participants engaged by mixing up the types of conversations.

Try presenting information in a different way. Maybe there’s a video clip or infographic that can help you make your point.

Include everyone in the discussion. A great way to do this is to have everyone give a very short statement on their initial thoughts on the issue at the beginning of the meeting.

Invite active participation. Give people time to talk in pairs or small groups, or even work through an example together. The more people engage on the issues, the more meaningful the meeting.

Find a way to integrate your company’s culture. Maybe your company has something to do with innovation… so try to incorporate an activity where people get to be creative. Or maybe your company is related to the great outdoors… so take your meeting outside!

Before you host your next meeting, spend some time working through these tips! I hope that they help you get focused and organized so that you can lead a successful meeting.

Be sure to check out my other tips on leading a successful meeting. In the next post, we’ll discuss how to make the most of your time during a meeting!

If you need some help facilitating a high-stakes meeting, let me know. We can have a planning meeting, or I can introduce you to Integrated Work’s team of amazing meeting facilitators!

Jessica Hartung

Jessica Hartung is a partner, coach, and guide for those leveling-up their personal professional leadership, their teams, and their communities to a better future.

Jessica has a passion for inspiring and preparing people to grow from their work to improve their lives. In 1998, she founded Integrated Work, a consulting firm that brings top-notch professional development to mission-driven leaders, while being a learning laboratory for innovative work practices.

Jessica provides self-directed professional development tools to leaders at all levels striving to create positive impact.

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