How to Run Effective Meetings and Get Work Done
“I just love sitting through dull meetings that waste my time,” said nobody ever. We’ll show you how to run an effective meeting — because you and your team want to work smarter and save time.
What’s Covered in this Guide
Click the links to jump to each section.
- Why Running an Effective Business Meeting Matters
- The 3 Keys to Running Successful Meetings
- What Makes for an Effective Meeting?
- 6 Steps for How To Write A Meeting Agenda
- What Are the 5 Key Elements of Effective Meetings?
- How Do You Run Effective Meetings? [10 Top Tips]
- How to Run a Successful Online Meeting
- How Do You Effectively Manage a Meeting?
- How Ninety Makes Running a Great Meeting Easier
Why Running an Effective Business Meeting Matters
A good meeting can inspire ideas that individual team members may not consider on their own. Structured meetings create fruitful team collaborations by focusing on brainstorming opportunities, solving challenges, and creating value.
When a company doesn’t spend time and effort on improving the way they run meetings, experts calculate only half of the meeting time is used effectively. Participants can lose even more quality work time after a bad meeting just because it’s bad.
Ineffective meetings decrease productivity and waste resources. They could also lower motivation and job satisfaction.
The benefits of improving your meetings highlight just the opposite. Running a great meeting:
- Ignites ideas
- Creates opportunities
- Builds teamwork
- Improves productivity
- Boosts job satisfaction and retention rates
So let's talk about how to run meetings that help your teams focus, align, and thrive.
The 3 Keys to Running Successful Meetings
According to the New York Times, effective meetings must have these three things:
- An agenda
- A time limit
- An endgame action plan
If your meetings fail to have those three criteria, your meeting participants:
- Won’t know why they’re even there
- Will think there’s no reason to meet
- Probably won’t want to stay or participate
If you have a clear agenda and a time limit, you’ll be on your way to creating an endgame action plan and running a great meeting the smart way. Here are some quick tips for a successful agenda, time limit, and action plan:
1. The Agenda
The agenda should outline the topics that need to be discussed. It should explain the reason for the meeting and what participants will be discussing.
The agenda tells the specific purpose for meeting with specific people for a specific outcome.
Meeting participants should receive the agenda before the meeting begins. We recommend including it in the meeting invitation.
Want to automate your meeting agenda? Here’s how.
2. The Time Limit
The keys to nailing the meeting time are straightforward:
- Set a reasonable length.
- Don’t wait for latecomers.
- Start on time and end on time.
Setting a time limit for meetings is a respectful way to honor people’s work schedules and get them back to their work as promptly as possible.
Experts suggest different time limits for different types of meetings:
- Standard team meetings: 15-30 minutes
- Project retrospective meetings: 30 minutes for every week spent on the project
- Brainstorming meetings: 40-60 minutes
- Strategy meetings: 60-90 minutes
- Decision-making meetings: 2 hours to a full day
- One-on-one meetings: 30-60 minutes
We recommend using Ninety to help you stay on track, on topic, and on time at every meeting. Ninety’s in-app timer will give you a countdown for each portion of your uploaded agenda.
3. The Action Plan
The action plan lays out the next steps for achieving the goal, including who is responsible for what and the deadlines. Assigning those next steps helps people take ownership of making sure things get done.
Using Ninety’s meeting management tool can be a major help here. Our cloud-based platform allows you to click to assign To-Dos, add notes to that new action item, assign an owner, and set a deadline for completion — all while you’re organically running the meeting.
What Makes for an Effective Meeting?
Companies that conduct efficient meetings have some important things in common:
- They start at the intended time.
- They stick to the time allotted for each agenda item.
- They include only the people involved in the project.
- They end on time with a plan to achieve the stated objective.
This is just a start. Leaders can turn an efficient meeting into a truly effective one by adding context to the process. For example:
1. Make sure you really need to meet.
Meetings aren’t the only way to collaborate. There’s also email, chat, company intranets, and other asynchronously sophisticated ways to “get together” and discuss.
These are all alternatives to meetings for sharing information and even brainstorming and one-on-one conversations. When it comes to making a decision, project planning, creating buyer journeys, setting goals, solving challenges, or something else, determine whether a meeting is the better way to get that specific thing done.
2. Invite team members who can make distinctive contributions.
You want a variety of participants who bring diverse perspectives, advanced knowledge, or accomplished experience to the meeting. Then, invite the people who will benefit from these perspectives.
3. Keep people completely focused on what’s happening in the moment.
Avoid multitasking. If a participant has an urgent and time-sensitive task that needs to be completed, they should get that task done first. Then, they can rejoin the meeting or find out what happened once they can fully focus on it.
4. Be thoughtful about meeting times.
Schedule meetings at a date and time that participants will stay engaged rather than inconvenienced, especially in the age of the remote workforce. When it can’t be avoided, connect in advance with those who may need to rearrange their schedules to participate. This check-in can go a long way toward building trust.
The meeting time can make a difference in people’s ability to contribute, too. Studies have shown that scheduling problem-solving sessions at the end of the day can spark a tired mind to see more opportunities or solutions without distraction. Meanwhile, you should schedule brainstorming sessions first thing in the morning to take advantage of a heightened capacity for creative thinking right after sleep.
5. Encourage open discussion.
It’s important for participants to feel like the meeting is a safe place to explore divergent ideas. They want to feel comfortable expressing their opinions and creative thoughts.
High-performing teams need this assurance that their contributions, however unusual or off-the-wall, are valued. Leaders can build that trust by:
- Setting a nonjudgmental tone for the rest of the group
- Letting curiosity rule the day
- Facilitating deeper discussion with open-ended questions
- Including everyone in the discussion
- Redirecting those dominating the meeting into another role, such as taking notes
6. Produce shareable results.
A good meeting will produce tangible achievements that can be documented and easily shared throughout the organization. What are shareable results? The decision, the action plan, the list of ideas, To-Dos or Goals, roles and responsibilities, and the next steps.
Ninety can help you create, document, and share all of those post-meeting results and action items. Just click a button, add the important information, and assign that next step wherever it needs to go. Learn more about Ninety’s meeting tools here.
6 Steps for How To Write A Meeting Agenda
Whether you want to learn how to run an effective business meeting, create a brainstorming session for your team, or figure out how to run a successful online meeting, they all start with writing an agenda.
These six steps outline how to write an effective meeting agenda:
1. Determine the reason for the meeting.
Starting with an achievable goal allows participants to understand why they will meet. Agenda items are focused on the stated objective.
2. Get ideas from participants.
Engage your team members even before the meeting takes place by asking them for input on the agenda. Asking them for topics they’d like to discuss or questions they’d like answers to will help ensure the time is spent fulfilling their needs.
It also allows them to decide whether they should be participants. Be sure to include all relevant feedback in the agenda.
3. Clarify the purpose of each agenda item.
To encourage discussion, try phrasing each agenda item as a question. Then, identify the purpose of each item, such as sharing information, getting input, or making a decision. By making a note of each item’s purpose on the agenda, you'll ensure participants will better understand what’s expected of them for each discussion.
4. Estimate how much time to spend on each agenda item.
5. Identify participant roles for the meeting.
In addition to the meeting leader, give other people a chance to lead the discussion. Decide who will handle what agenda items and who will take meeting notes.
6. Leave time at the end for next steps.
At the end of the meeting, reserve time to review discussions, conclusions, and decisions. This helps participants better understand the next steps after the meeting. For example, when running a meeting in Ninety, the program automatically sends participants a recap email detailing what was discussed and the action items that need to be addressed before the next meeting.
Ninety’s Meetings tool helps you focus on the content of your meeting, not how you’re going to navigate it. Get a free 30-day trial of Ninety now.
What Are the 5 Key Elements of Effective Meetings?
The five elements of effective meetings are:
Engage meeting participants by telling them a story about the topic. Studies show that storytelling helps increase message retention by activating areas of the brain that process language and experience events.
Focus is on shared information for clarity rather than including the breadth of knowledge, so participants are not overwhelmed.
Throughout the meeting, present accurate information that conforms to fairness and logic.
Make dialogue a key ingredient of meetings. Real dialogue encourages questions, clarifications, and ultimately, greater buy-in from participants.
End the meeting by including a direct request, next steps, or a plan of action. Ninety’s software can help you assign those next steps and will archive everything that was discussed.
For us, understanding how to run an effective meeting comes down to five things:
- Staying healthily connected.
- Making sure we’re on top of the things that matter.
- Sharing good news with the rest of the company.
- Creating a consistent time and place for addressing issues and opportunities.
- Scoring the meeting (from a 1 to a 10) at the end, so we know whether it was a good use of our time.
Want to learn more about how Ninety can help you run better meetings? Try it free for 30 days.
How Do You Run Effective Meetings? [10 Top Tips]
1. Realize the true power of an effective meeting.
Meetings get a bad rap, and for good reason. Learning how to run a good meeting isn’t usually a class you take in college.
But while you might not have formal training in running a great meeting, anyone can learn.
The biggest thing to remember? Scheduling a meeting just to share information is the real reason why people dislike meetings.
Having a meeting just to share information is like using a screwdriver to hammer a nail. The modern workforce has better (and faster) ways to share information, like message apps, chat, email, or company intranets.
When used correctly, meetings have the power to do more than simply share information. They can help with determining strategy, making decisions, devising action plans, clarifying roles and responsibilities, inspiring collaboration, and so much more.
Once you realize the true power of the meeting, you can use it as the right tool for helping you achieve specific goals.
2. Make meetings remote-friendly.
Effective meetings are those that are accessible and valuable for all participants, no matter where they are working. It’s critical that you coordinate the “when” and “how” of any meeting to accommodate the hybrid workplace.
Advances in video conferencing allow everyone involved to be seen and heard. Everyone is able to participate with equal measure.
3. Establish roles for each meeting.
People are more likely to contribute to a meeting when they know what their role is in expediting the agenda. First, you need to clearly communicate the purpose of the meeting to all participants and tell them what you want them to do to achieve it.
For instance, in meetings at Ninety, one person runs the meeting and another runs the Meetings tool. A leader doesn't need to be the person who runs the technology. Letting others handle the details can free up leaders to focus on thinking through Issues. They can also ensure everyone is being seen and appropriately involved.
4. Change the typical meeting mindset.
When people have to wait for meetings to start, they’re already annoyed before they begin. Do you know that nearly 40% of meetings start late at most midsize companies? That’s a lot of potentially uncomfortable participants who’ve lost their ability to contribute in a meaningful way, all due to waiting around.
Do yourself a favor: Always start meetings on time. You don’t need to wait for, acknowledge, or catch any latecomers up — they don’t need to waste everyone else’s time.
5. Use “average attention span” to an advantage.
According to New York Times bestselling author John Medina, people can only pay attention to one thing for 10 minutes before they start getting antsy about moving on to the next thing. Medina’s advice? Keep that 10-minute time frame in mind when crafting an effective meeting agenda.
Aim to complete each item on the agenda within 10 minutes, and assign any action items before moving on to the next item on the agenda. If you’re still discussing an agenda item after 10 minutes, table the discussion and move on to the next. You can finish your original discussion after the meeting with only the necessary parties.
6. Encourage active listening.
Active listening is a powerful communication skill that makes it easier to enable better comprehension and meaningful contributions from participants. When people listen actively, they’re more engaged and focused on what’s going on in the moment.
Here are three ways to prepare people for active listening:
- Create a comfortable environment. Pay attention to room temperature, lighting, and extraneous sounds like ringing phones.
- Reduce distractions. Research shows people cannot stop themselves from checking their phones. It’s a great reason to keep phones out of reach and laptops closed during a meeting, if possible.
- Ask questions. If you’re leading a meeting, asking participants for their input or advice can help them stay engaged, find different perspectives, and more effectively problem-solve.
7. Use smaller participant groups to tackle agenda items.
There are a few reasons why this works:
- Dividing agenda items among smaller groups of people helps people take ownership of the result.
- Changing things up with different leaders for each group keeps everyone more engaged.
- With multiple groups working on multiple agenda items simultaneously, you save time.
- Sharing their findings with the entire group facilitates even more collaboration, not to mention refreshed engagement.
- It’s also a good way to strengthen remote working relationships and encourage proactive problem-solving.
8. Always leave meetings with clarity.
What’s the point of meeting if you don’t come away with an actionable way to move forward? It’s easy to misstep on this.
Always flesh out an action plan with next steps, roles and responsibilities, check-ins on progress, deadlines for results, and anything else that will keep them focused on success. Ninety allows you to do this organically throughout the meeting, so everyone feels empowered to return to their day with a clear vision of what needs to be done next.
9. Ask participants about meeting effectiveness.
After every meeting, give participants a chance to provide feedback:
- How would they rate the meeting, on a scale from 1 to 10?
- Was it a valuable use of their time?
- Did it inspire them? Energize them to action?
- How would they improve it?
Then, record those responses at the end of each meeting in Ninety. It doesn’t take much time and offers valuable information, a huge benefit for planning effective meetings in the future.
10. Stop scheduling meetings altogether.
If you’re wondering if your teams even need meetings to build an extraordinarily productive, humane, and resilient organization, just cancel them all. Seriously.
Once you’ve canceled all your meetings, you can better determine which ones might have been really worthwhile, fulfilling, and necessary. Then, add only those truly meaningful meetings back to your calendar.
But this time, make sure that each of those meetings follows our tips above. And to make it even easier to implement those tips, start running your meetings in Ninety.
How to Run a Successful Online Meeting
It helps to realize that online meetings are still meetings, with one distinction. Online meetings are dependent on technology to facilitate them. Most notably, video conferencing. To run a productive meeting online, follow all the tips in the post, plus the following:
- Iron out any technical difficulties with the video conference software before the meeting begins. Check that the audio and video are working and your internet connection is reliable.
- Make sure all phones and other devices are silenced. Or consider banning them altogether. Even the sound of an incoming text or phone call notification can disrupt a person’s cognitive performance. People will have an opportunity to check them during a break.
- Meeting size matters. Researchers have concluded that group size can influence the quality of a person’s response during any meeting, especially during video conferences. It acts like the bystander effect. The most productive meetings contain only five to eight people, according to Harvard Business Review research.
- Consider asking participants to enable video in addition to audio so they’re more likely to stay actively engaged.
- Consider recording online meetings to make them more accessible for everyone, including those with disabilities. The recording can be used to review the meeting afterward, to transcribe notes, and as source material for company media presentations.
How Do You Effectively Manage a Meeting?
We have two key tips for effectively managing a meeting:
1. Ask for feedback.
You may be committed to running a great meeting, but everyone in attendance has a say in whether the meeting was effective. Ask participants these kinds of questions:
- “Did you understand this meeting’s purpose?”
- “Was the agenda clear enough?”
- “How comfortable were you with contributing to the discussion?”
- “Did we include the appropriate team members?”
- “Who else should be included in the future, if anyone?”
- “Is there anyone whose time would be better spent elsewhere?”
- “Were you clear on next steps and your role in accomplishing them?”
- “Did this meeting result in creating value for the company?”
This feedback can provide helpful information for continuous improvement in planning future meetings.
2. Use the right technology (like Ninety’s Meetings tool).
The right platform will enable meetings where leaders and team members can devote time to identifying challenges that the company is facing and hold each other accountable for finding solutions that create value. It should also establish the flow of a well-run meeting.
Meeting-improvement platforms like Ninety allow you to set the total meeting time and divide the time for each agenda item, such as:
- Check-in — A segue into the meeting where everyone can share something personal, like a professional accomplishment from the past week. Think of it as a quick gratitude session. The idea is to stay connected as humans.
- Data recap — A chance to look over everyone’s most important measurables and conduct a quick analysis of the findings. If something is off track, there’s a place in the software to make note of it.
- Rock status — Find out whether participants are on track or off track with their major goals for the quarter.
- Headlines — A general sharing of company news, client or employee feedback, and other headlines that keeps participants engaged. Think of it as a virtual "water cooler moment."
- To-Do review — Participants share the status of their tasks and report on their progress.
- Raise, Discuss, and Resolve (RDR) — Quality time to prioritize issues, discuss the root of the challenges, convert them into specific actionable items, or resolve them. This is the main session and main reason for a weekly team meeting.
- Conclusion — A moment to recap what just happened: identify next steps, recap tasks, confirm a timeline for action, and decide what information is worthy of sharing with other levels of the company.
How Ninety Makes Running a Great Meeting Easier
Ninety provides intuitive tools for running effective meetings. The functionalities listed below are true game-changers that help everything run seamlessly:
- Using the in-app timer — Ninety has enhanced automation that allows you to track the overall duration of your meeting as well as each agenda item.
- “Multiple people in a meeting” functionality — The ability to have multiple people contributing during a meeting to make the experience more productive. Instead of pausing the entire meeting so the leader can immediately capture information, one person can capture the thought while the rest of the team moves forward.
- Easily making something an Issue — The easiest method that works with just about every item in a meeting is to right-click and select “Make it an Issue.” Or use the Create button in the top right corner of Ninety to create a new Issue that doesn't originate from a pre-existing item in the meeting.
- Instant note-taking — Take notes throughout the meeting. Notes are included in the Meeting Recap email, allowing you to see all of your past meeting details. Add notes to goals and Scorecards for future reference.
- Quickly combining issues — During a meeting, participants often find multiple Issues that contain similarities. Merging those similar Issues allows you to save time and better prioritize the rest of the conversations. Simply right-click on the first issue, select "Merge into Issue," and click on the second Issue. The information in both items will be combined into one convenient location.
- Adjusting goals on the fly — Quickly make adjustments to individual Key Performance Indicator (KPI) goals from the primary Scorecard view or adjust multiple Goals and KPIs using the Goal Forecasting feature.
- Seeing next steps in a recap email — A meeting recap email is sent to all team members post-meeting and includes Issues solved, To-Dos created, Headlines discussed, cascading messages sent, and anything else that’s tracked during the meeting.
- Getting instant feedback — At its conclusion, all participants can rate the meeting on a scale of one to 10 to address efficiency, topics covered, preparedness, or anything else.
Want to find out how Ninety can help you run an effective meeting (and finally get more work done)? Try it free for 30 days, and see how much your meetings can improve!