5 Steps on How to Run a Formal Meeting

Step 1: Set objectives
A clear objective will encourage people to attend the meeting because they will understand its intent. It also will set the foundation for a focused meeting.

Meetings usually have one of two objectives – to inform or to decide. “Discussion” is not a meeting objective. For example, “to determine the market positioning for Series 2006 trade advertising” is an effective objective. It is focused and clearly announces the aim of the meeting.
“To discuss Series 2006 marketing” sounds aimless and could invite rambling instead of action.

Step 2: Assemble attendees
Create a list of who needs to attend this meeting. Think carefully about whether or not someone needs to be in the room for the duration of the meeting (perhaps they can join you via conference call, or for one specific topic). Remember, if you waste someone’s time, he or she will be less likely to attend and participate in the next meeting you run.

Be definitive when you invite people to a meeting. You must be courteous of people’s schedules, but you will have an easier time scheduling a meeting if you say “Please plan to attend and if you cannot make it let me know.” Always let people know the objective of the meeting, the time it will begin and the time it will end. Also, stress that it will begin on time.

Step 3: Create an agenda
An agenda is a list of the key items to review in order to meet your objective. It can be something you use for yourself or hand out at the meeting. The upside of handing out an agenda is that it provides a script for people to follow. The downside is that it may distract your attendees; it could tempt them to jump to issues you’re not ready to cover. For example, if the fifth bullet down is engineering, the engineers in the room may want to jump right to that. If you need to resolve other issues first you may want to keep the agenda to yourself. If you are running a status meeting you can use your project timeline as your agenda.

If you decide to hand out an agenda, be sure to state the objective and date at the top of the page. All points should be bulleted. Everyone in the meeting should receive one, so be sure to make more than enough copies.

Step 4: Maintain control
Once the meeting has begun, it is your responsibility to keep it moving and keep it focused.

Here are some tips for accomplishing this:

  • Start on time, even if people are late. If you wait until the last person arrives, you train people to be late.
  • Briefly state what the meeting is about.
  • If you have passed out an agenda, be sure everyone follows it so that you accomplish your objectives.
  • If discussion drags on a topic and a decision is not being made, it is your job to interject and say something like, “For the sake of the timeline of the project, we need to make a decision.”
  • If it is apparent that something cannot be resolved, determine what will be necessary to resolve it in the future and add it to the project timeline.
  • Crowd control: You have to be firm if the group gets off track and suggest that the matter be discussed at another time.
  • Schedule the next meeting at the end of the current one.
  • If you called the meeting, you are responsible for taking notes or appointing someone to take notes.

Step 5: Follow up
Once the meeting has ended, you still have work to do.

Put together and distribute an action list summarising what was covered, what was resolved, and what actions need to be taken for issues requiring further clarification. This should come straight from the meeting notes.

Make sure to thank people for attending and participating. They will be happy to know their time was appreciated

Update your timeline to cover progress reported at the meeting. In your update, make sure to include the date of the next meeting, along with what needs to be accomplished by then. Distribute the revised timeline.

Reprinted with permission
Icon Business Solutions