5 Rules for Running Productive Meetings

By Declan Collins

I’ve been to, chaired, and day dreamed my way though a lot of meetings over the years, and the majority of them were unproductive wastes of time and money (number of participants x salary x time).


Thankfully some of them were well run, effective, and achieved their aim in a timely manner. Here’s what I believe the common traits of a successful meeting are:

Rule #1 Clear Objective(s)

It’s vitally important everyone knows what they are there to do and what the outcomes of the meeting might look like. You need to share this in advance along with any pre-reads and the agenda.

Defining this purpose early on will help you set the tone of the meeting and the areas it will explore.

e.g. deciding if Project X should continue or stop. This is clear that the outcome of the meeting will be a decision on the future of project X.

Rule #2 Get the Basics Right

Ensure you are in a decent meeting space, have some water, make sure it’s not too hot/cold, assign someone to take notes (for distribution afterwards).

Rule # 3 Set Clear TImes (and respect them)

Have a clear start and stop time and stick to them. This not only allows people to schedule their diaries but also allows the chair to ensure people are not inconvenienced by run overs if they occur. A reputation for starting and stopping on time will be appreciated by your colleagues.

I’m a huge believer in starting on time – if you keep waiting for people they will keep coming late and this is disrespectful to the people who arrived on time. Respect your own and everyone else’s time.

Rule # 4 Eyes on the Prize

Or in this case the objective of the meeting…the chair needs to keep everyone on target to reach the objective of the meeting. This means shutting down unrelated tangents in a firm and polite manner – it can be good to establish this ground rule at the beginning and have a list of ‘things to circle back to’ etc. Sticking to the agenda is of paramount importance so make sure the chair is skilled at redirecting the conversation back to where it needs to be.

Rule # 5 Follow Ups

It’s vitally important you follow up on the meeting discussion and actions or outcomes. Circulate the notes from the meeting and clearly call out any agreed actions and their timeframe and owners.

If you follow these relatively simple rules you should see the effectiveness of your meetings improve and lessen the risk of someone falling asleep in one!