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5 must-haves for a successful meeting

3 min read


We’ve all heard the jokes — hold a meeting! You can see people, create charts, drink coffee, have doughnuts, impress your colleagues — all on company time.

Successful meetings are possible. With forethought and planning, your meetings will use attendees’ time wisely and accomplish important business goals.

Structure meetings to ensure effective results. Every meeting must have:

  • A written objective.
  • Crucial stakeholders’ attendance.
  • A circulated agenda.
  • Beginning and end times.
  • A written summary with action items, fixed responsibility and follow up.

A written objective.

Your objective depends on whether you are:

  • Receiving reports.
  • Generating ideas.
  • Expecting a decision.
  • Communicating a company policy or procedure.
  • Circulating company news.
  • Making specific plans to be implemented.

To paraphrase Stephen Covey, you need to look at the end before you know where to begin. What do you want the participants to do when they leave the meeting? This helps determine your objective. The objective should be clearly stated in writing at the top of your agenda.

Crucial attendees

The success of your meeting depends on participation from all of the stakeholders. Consult the necessary attendees regarding their availability. Change the date and/or time if necessary. If you need the accounting director in order to make a decision regarding revised customer payment terms, it’s useless to conduct the meeting without her. If face-to-face participation is important, the location of the majority of the stakeholders may be a consideration. Or will video conference or conference call suffice?

A circulated agenda

With a pre-circulated agenda, everyone knows the objective of the meeting, which topics will be discussed, who is responsible for the various topics and how much time the meeting will take. Every agenda should have subjects in sequential order, with a time allotment and moderator for each. An organized agenda permits everyone to carve out the time from his/her day and come with ideas and questions already considered. Outline the meeting’s expectations, and attach background materials if necessary.

Keep on task! This is the moderator’s focus. When a question is raised or statement made, re-state to avoid confusion. Make sure everyone is listening to the person speaking, with no side conversations. The moderator must control the discussion to stay on topic. If an important issue is raised not germane to the topic at hand, table this to an offline task force.

Begin and end on time.

Be respectful of attendees’ commitments, and wrap up the meeting within the allotted time. If you’ve structured your agenda carefully and adhered to key issues without allowing tangents, finishing on time should be easy. However, if issues still must be considered, schedule a follow-up meeting.

Provide a written summary

The note-taker provides a written record to each participant. Action decisions must be noted in writing. Affix the proper person’s name to the action, along with the deadline completion date. The moderator (or another appropriate, assigned person) is responsible to follow up on each item until completed by the designated party.

Other considerations include the use of visuals, how to set up the meeting room for maximum participation and impact, and whether the meeting should be at the office or off site. Using a project charter outline, incorporating the 5 “must-haves,” provides standardization across your company and contributes to successful meetings.

Gwen Kuebler, principal of Ideas That Grow Your Business, has served for more than 20 years in client services, account management, sales, marketing and operations roles. Her passion is helping people succeed in their professions — to be peaceful and challenged in their life’s work, constantly growing and improving. Contact Kuebler.