The How To Guide To Setting Up A Meeting For Success

Adriana Girdler

My secrets of leading an effective meeting. In the business world, it’s interesting that if something is important, fields of study and training will revolve …

My secrets of leading an effective meeting.

ULTIMATE MEETING CHEAT SHEETIn the business world, it’s interesting that if something is important, fields of study and training will revolve around the activity and profession. To be an accountant, engineer, sales representative, project manager etc. you need the skills and know how to do the job before you can even start to be effective. But when it comes to meeting management, something that we all do, all the time, all day and an activity that takes up all our time, there’s no standard practice or expectation regarding training all employees in better meeting management. Yet, a study by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics indicates unnecessary meetings cost U.S. businesses approximately $37 billion each year. So why is efficient and effective meeting management not a top priority for organizations? I wish I had the answer. I scratch my head trying to understand why there are still so many poorly run meetings. So whether your meeting management skills are top notch or not, here is my How To List on setting up a meeting for success.

Pre Meeting:

Step 1 – Plan your meetings. Ok, you may think this is a no brainer, but lots of people wing it and that’s why we have a cost of 37 billion in unnecessary meetings. Think about the type of meeting you’re going to have. Is it a resolution meeting, brainstorming meeting or a training session, to name a few. When you know this, put together a meeting deliverable and decide who needs to attend.

Step 2 – Create the necessary supporting documentation. This means agenda, meeting charters, invites, reminder emails and your power point presentation for all those visual learners in your group and send out any pre-read material at least 2 days prior to the meeting. People need time to read them and/or develop things for your meeting.

Step 3 – Prepare the meeting kit. A meeting kit is a tool box that has all the supplies you need for your meeting like tape, markers or post-it notes, etc. Look at your meeting kit and ensure all supplies are stocked up with whatever you need to ensure you’re not hunting down supplies while running the meeting. Remember…be prepared!

The Meeting:

Step 4 – Arrive early to set up your meeting. Ensure the room is configured properly, snacks/drinks are available if this is a long session, projector and computer are ready to go as soon as everyone arrives at the agreed upon start time. Nothing kills the mood of a meeting more than waiting for it to start because it wasn’t set up properly.

Step 5 – Use meeting tools to manage the participants. This is my favourite step in meeting management. Tools are my best friend because it gives me guidance to manage the people and meeting outcome. My tools include:

  1. Timeout – As the facilitator, at the beginning of the meeting, ask permission to time participants out if the discussion goes off topic or time doesn’t allow for a full discussion at the time (in this case, parking lot the item).
  2. Parking lot – When discussion is off topic, call a timeout and capture the thought on a parking lot. A parking lot is captured on flip chart paper so everyone can see it. I’d suggest you get the meeting participant involved to go write down the point. It keeps them engaged and they’re confident their voice is heard.
  3. Session rules – Have a set of rules that everyone needs to follow during a meeting. Use the rules to set up expectations of behavior at the meeting. Also the rules give the facilitator permission to call out bad behaviours ensuring the meeting stays on track. Check out our rules poster, it’s free on our website. We have one in every meeting room.
  4. Gain consensus – Not everyone has to agree 100%. If this was the case, nothing would get done. Instead, have everyone agree to at the beginning of the meeting to the following:
    “I may not agree 100% but I can and will live with, support and carry through with the group’s decision”. This is a great way to keep the meeting moving.

Step 6 – Outline the agenda. Once the meeting structure is understood, review the agenda and follow it to a tee. This is where a lot of meetings get derailed. If you get derailed by a participant, gently bring them back by calling a timeout, say that the topic is not part of the agenda and put their thoughts/concerns on the parking lot. Now it’s off their mind and they can concentrate on the task at hand.

Step 7 – Action items. During the meeting capture action items ONLY. Get a list of all the new task that need to get done. Include due dates and responsibility. There’s nothing more useless than an action item list with no action item owner.

Step 8 – Summarize meeting agreements. At the end of a meeting summarize outcomes, agreements and action items. It’s a nice reminder for the participants on what they agreed to do prior to walking out of the meeting.

Post Meeting

Step 9 – Documentation and follow up. Immediately clean up all documentation and send the agreed up action list to the participants right after the meeting so they can start working on their tasks. If you have standard meeting documentation this is very easy to do and ought to be relatively quick. Also, it is important to follow up with the meeting participants to confirm the status of their action items. Do this outside any meeting so when you meet again, your session doesn’t become an update meeting.

Step 10 – Plan your next meeting. We’ve come full circle. Look at the outcomes and decide what the next steps are. If you need to have another meeting, start the process all over again!

Now that you know the fundaments of good meeting management, start practicing these steps to be an awesome meeting organizer. Now if only you could get paid extra for all the money you are saving the company for conducting productive meetings. I think you may need to ask for a $37 billion raise…wink, wink!

Good MeetingsCheck out more tips on meeting management via my pocket book Good Meetings= Great Results located on our website’s products page.


What meeting management tips do you practice that help you be a great meeting organizer? Thanks for reading don’t forget to share/tweet/like our blog just underneath this paragraph. And don’t forget, we’re always here to help with your business efficiency needs.

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Adriana Girdler is a project manager, productivity specialist, entrepreneur, professional speaker, facilitator, visioning wizard, and author. As President of CornerStone Dynamics, Adriana is one of Canada’s prominent business productivity and project management specialists—helping both individuals and businesses do what they do, only better. She is a certified master black belt lean six sigma with over 20 years’ experience improving how companies work.

She also holds both PMP (project management professional) and CET (certified engineering technologist) designations. She’s a Tedx speaker, as well as a HuffPost and Thrive Global contributor. She has been interviewed on Global, CBC, CTV, CHCH, 680News Radio, Newstalk 1010, Sirius XM and published in the Globe and Mail and numerous industry magazines. WANT ADRIANA'S FREE ONLINE TRAINING? In 45 min, learn Adriana's 5 project management secrets she use on EVERY project. Sign up for the Free Webinar here: THE FAB FIVE FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

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