A complete 15 step guide to better meeting management

Marlo Oster

Meeting management enables teams across an organization to get on the same page and work toward a common goal. But as teams grow larger and become more distributed, effective troubleshooting, planning, goal setting, and decision making become increasingly difficult. 

Effective meeting management doesn't stop after the last of the "minutes" have been typed up and shared with the team. It must include proper preparation beforehand, engaging facilitation during the meeting, and thoughtful follow-through after the meeting concludes. 

There are several ways to optimize your team's time together. We’ll cover 15 important strategies for before, during, and after a meeting. Keep reading to unlock the steps to achieve better meetings that will foster productivity, collaboration, and follow-through. 

What is meeting management?

Meeting management includes all of the processes that come together to run a meeting. When done effectively, it results in meetings that run smoothly from start to finish—attendees arrive prepared, remain engaged throughout, and leave knowing exactly what they need to accomplish next.

Meetings take up a huge amount of people’s time and can severely hinder productivity if not run properly. When meetings are poorly scheduled or run ineffectively, they can create a huge disturbance in workplace productivity and wellness. If your meetings lack purpose, don’t have a clear agenda, or conclude without action items, it’s time to reassess the way you run meetings to ensure each one provides value.

📚 Learn more: Too many meetings? The good, the bad, and the unnecessary.

Every meeting should serve a specific purpose that’s planned out well in advance. A meeting management system sets the team up for success with consistent expectations, practices, and tools that members take part in before, during, and after the meeting.

The more people-centric and consistent these processes are, the more likely your employees are to adopt them. Each team is unique and will develop a slightly different process. What’s important is you have systems in place that everyone understands and that you use continuous feedback to improve those systems.

Effective meeting management: 5 steps for before the meeting

Meetings require significant planning in order to be successful. Follow our five strategies to optimize the planning process before your meeting begins.

1. Define the purpose of the meeting and determine who is needed

When arranging a meeting, the purpose of the meeting should be the common thread in every decision, including the critical task of choosing relevant attendees.

To understand the goals and purpose of the meeting, ask:

  1. What format best supports the intended discussion?
  2. What level of interactivity is required from participants?
  3. What are the anticipated outcomes, action items, or deliverables after this meeting?
  4. How much structure or facilitation is required?

Put careful consideration into who needs to attend the meeting. Don’t set it and forget it, either. Once you have an attendees list set for a recurring meeting, continually assess this list to make sure changes aren’t needed down the road.

If you invite too many people to the meeting, you run the risk of disengagement from members who were mistakenly included but have nothing to contribute or gain from being present. This can dilute the meeting and reduce productivity across the workplace.

On the flip side, when key people are missing from the meeting, it can result in having to reschedule additional meetings to make up for information gaps. This can be frustrating to the participants who made time for a meeting that was, at best, only semi-productive.

To avoid these pitfalls that may unintentionally hamper your credibility as the meeting facilitator, take time in the planning process and define a clear purpose for the meeting.

2. Choose an appropriate meeting format

Depending on the meeting’s purpose, there are a number of different meeting formats to choose from. When deciding on the format, consider who is invited, the length of the meeting, and what you hope to accomplish in the end.

Some common meeting formats that will structure a wide range of use cases:

  • Recurring meetings: a predictive meeting that is scheduled regularly with a set agenda
  • Ad Hoc meetings: short conversations that happen off-the-cuff and are often attributed to serendipity
  • Project meetings: related to a specific group or project. Often facilitated by a project owner who is striving to keep team members on schedule for project delivery
  • Daily stand-up meetings: these types of meetings provide status updates on what tasks have been completed the previous day and what remains to be done for the current day
  • Problem-solving/brainstorm meetings: These meetings are centered around collective creativity and best used to innovate, generate new ideas, or fix issues
  • Presentations: one or more group members might host this to present an idea, launch a new product, or announce a promotion or project pivot
  • Team building meetings: generally conducted in an informal setting to bring the team closer together and develop rapport
  • One on one meetings: a recurring time set aside for a manager and one of their direct reports to connect, offer each other feedback, and get to know each other better
  • All hands meetings: assemble everyone within the organization together to address the current state and future of the company

3. Establish meeting frequency

Deciding whether a meeting is a one-off or recurring event is critical to its success. A meeting's frequency can determine the eventual unity or cohesiveness of the group. 

Recurring Meetings (Daily, Weekly, Monthly etc.)

When organized with precision, recurring meetings can help keep team members up-to-date with one another's progress, stumbling blocks, and wins. 

For example, daily stand-up meetings can be helpful when teammates require support because they know what each team member’s bandwidth looks like on any given day.

You may consider a recurring meeting if:

  • Input or support from other team members is critical to the team's success.
  • You want to create a culture of accountability and keep momentum on projects.
  • Celebrating wins is part of the agenda for a morale boost.
  • One on one feedback is provided between managers and their team members. 
  • Each recurring meeting continues to provide value to the attendees.

One-off Meetings 

One-off meetings happen on an as needed basis and may include members of other teams that aren't used to working together, vendors, and/or clients. 

You may consider a one-off meeting if:

  • There's a need for new solutions or ideas.
  • There’s a reason to reassess your processes.
  • It's time to realign objectives on a particular project.
  • Something important has changed since the initial or previous meeting.

4. Distribute a collaborative agenda

Collaborative agendas, whether for one on ones or group meetings, provide relevant information while inviting participation and team engagement

Give all attendees access to the agenda in advance. This allows participants to prepare by contributing additional resources and discussion topics. Save the surprises for office birthdays—having a clear understanding of what a meeting will entail ensures it will run smoothly.

Team organizational tools can help you share meeting agendas and assign appropriate meeting tasks before and after the meeting. Ensure that pre and post-meeting details can be called up again for reference and reflection anytime—without getting buried in emails.

With Charma, you can give participants who are presenting within the meeting a heads up by assigning them as the owner of an agenda’s discussion topic so that expectations are set in advance. It provides sufficient opportunity to clarify with the meeting organizer and prepare, and it prevents anyone from feeling like they've been put on the spot during the meeting. 

5. Consider any additional preparation or pre-work

After you've determined the meeting’s purpose and shared a collaborative agenda with attendees, it's time to prepare the supportive materials that will facilitate the meeting. What pre-work is needed to underscore the purpose of the meeting, keep participants engaged, and reduce any likelihood of meeting overtime?

Meeting management is more important than ever with the growing number of distributed teams. Pre-work ensures that meeting time is used productively.

Examples of pre-work might include:

  • A PowerPoint or Keynote presentation to prepare for a launch
  • Mock-ups and prototypes for design crits
  • An interactive board on Miro for brainstorming
  • Internal feedback or survey results

If asking participants to review pre-work before the meeting, make sure it’s essential, clear, and simplified to ensure no time is wasted. The point of pre-meeting materials is to aid the meeting, not bog people down before they get there.

  1. Ensure that it's essential to the meeting content. Explain why it's critical to their understanding and how it relates to the meeting’s purpose.
  2. Make the priority clear. If there is more than one item to review, break it up into easily digestible steps and tell attendees roughly how long each pre-work step will take. 
  3. Prepare, but don’t bore. Text-heavy pre-work will hinder attendees' interest before they get to the meeting. Break up materials that need to be reviewed with different mediums and formats, distilling information for simplicity.

Effective meeting management: 5 steps for during the meeting

After you are sufficiently prepared, it’s time to begin the meeting. Follow our 5 strategies for what needs to happen during the meeting. 

1. Start with an overview of the agenda 

Let participants know where you’re heading and the purpose of your discussion. Provide a light recap of what's expected and who is responsible for presenting which portion of the meeting. You should also reiterate how long the meeting will run. This will get everyone on the same page before you get down to meeting business.

If the meeting is successful, what will you have accomplished in the end? Who is responsible for taking notes? What action items are the most important to the success of the meeting?

2. Provide context for how everyone can participate

Let participants know the best way to contribute, ask questions, and provide feedback while the meeting is in progress. Doing so will prevent tangents, keep attendees focused, and ensure the time is productive.

That could mean asking participants to jot down notes instead of interrupting so they can voice their concerns at the end of each section. You may also request a more active participation level that happens in real-time—whatever it is, lay it all out so people understand how and when to interact.

3. Bring A+ facilitation skills

Effective meeting management requires effective facilitation. This includes knowing when it's time to move things along or when a particular voice has been dominating the meeting space. 

Ensure you have someone experienced running meetings that are more critical to ensure things are kept on track. In a virtual setting, you may need to pay closer attention to social cues during the meeting to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to share.

Facilitation is a skill that takes practice and time to grow. Provide time and space for various people on your team to practice and hone their skills, and don’t hesitate to invest in training in this area. The more people on your team who can facilitate meetings effectively, the better your business will run.

4. Align on action items and ownership

At the end of the meeting or after each section of the meeting, assign action items to the relevant parties that will move the project or business goals forward.

What action items are needed in order to fulfill the meeting's purpose? Simply creating the action items is not enough. Who is responsible for each action item, and what is the time frame for completion? Are there any bottlenecks that could occur, and how can the rest of the team contribute to ensuring goals are met?

Decide on the best way to communicate the completion of action items and who will own the handoff so that each team member can own their piece of the project. This is your final chance to be clear about what happens next. This goes beyond a list of tasks to enable ownership, follow-through, and alignment on goals.

You can assign action items and set goals seamlessly with Charma. Action items are stored in one convenient application with clear ownership and due dates.

5. Wrap up by gathering critical insights

A retrospective at the end of the meeting can help you understand what went well and what could be improved upon next time. Take a short moment to ask meeting attendees three questions that will provide valuable insight into your processes.

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go so well?
  3. What could be improved upon for next time?

Exercises like this are sometimes called Rose, Bud, Thorn (what went well, what’s a budding opportunity, and what didn’t go well?) or Anchors and Sails (what is holding you back from completing your work, and what is going well/putting wind in your sails?)

Effective meeting management: 5 steps for after the meeting

The work doesn’t stop after the meeting ends. Follow our 5 strategies for after the meeting to ensure relevant information is distributed, and goals are met.

1. Share meeting minutes

Meeting minutes should be shared with all participants, including those who were invited and those who could not attend due to illness, vacation, or a scheduling conflict.

Make sure someone reliable who understands the context and purpose of the meeting takes notes. Distill the notes into an easily digestible format. If someone was unable to attend the meeting, what pieces of information are the most important for them to receive? Summarize important points while also providing full meeting notes for those who want them.

The expectation of consistent meeting minutes will give attendees peace of mind that they can give their full attention to the meeting, as opposed to scrambling to compile their own notes.

2. Prioritize next steps and action items

After the conclusion of the meeting, review action items and reorganize them as needed based on priority. What are the most important tasks to complete in order to move a project forward? What tasks are holding other team members back and should therefore be prioritized above other action items?

3. Set clear and firm deadlines

Deadlines are a critical aspect of turning ideas into action items. When are tasks due? What happens if bottlenecks occur? Are the deadlines set after the meeting clear?

If you are uncertain, review meeting notes and ask for additional context from peers or management. It’s important that you clearly understand what is expected of you after the meeting. Management should have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what tasks, when they are due, and how various tasks interact with and depend on each other.

4. Foster accountability and follow up

How will you ensure accountability after everyone disperses from the meeting? When will you meet next? If this isn’t a recurring meeting, how do you make sure the progress and ideas from the meeting are followed through on?

Build a culture of accountability across the workplace so that everyone knows they can count on one another. Accountability establishes trust across teams and ensures ownership from every team member—no matter their role or position.

How will meeting action items be followed up on? How are tasks passed off from one team member to the next? Make sure everyone is accountable for their own action items and that they understand the exact steps to take should a roadblock occur.

5. Provide continuous feedback to improve processes

Always assess your processes and reflect on the effectiveness of your meetings. There will never come a time when you have ‘made it’ and no longer need to improve. Providing constructive, continuous feedback—and enabling team members to provide peers and management with feedback—helps to instill a continuous improvement mindset in your company culture. 

360 degree feedback is a technique that brings peers, reporting staff, customers, supervisors, and managers into the performance review process. Ask your team how they feel the meeting was run. Collecting feedback from everyone involved provides invaluable insight. 

Did attendees feel their voice was heard? Is the meeting being held at a convenient time for everyone involved? Is the meeting too long or too short to reach the goals defined at the beginning of the meeting? 

We can’t improve without feedback, so take the time to collect and provide feedback about your meeting management processes. 

Bottom Line

Meetings work best when you build consensus on meeting setup beforehand, clearly facilitate the meeting throughout, and quarterback the follow-through. Failing to put sufficient effort into any of these important meeting phases (before, during, and after) results in frustrating meetings, wasted time, and reduced productivity.

Effective meeting management is crucial, and by investing in consistent processes and tools, you demonstrate that you value each team member and respect their workday hours.

Master Meeting Management With Charma

Charma provides One on Ones, Team Collaboration, Feedback, Recognition & Goals — all in one place. Eliminate the never-ending inbox of calendar invites and streamline meeting intent. Our meeting management system keeps managers and team members engaged, productive, and aligned.

For more content like this, follow our Blog dedicated to improving workplace meetings, collaboration, and goal setting. If you have any questions about our articles or how to utilize Charma, reach out to our team at any time.

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