Chairing a meeting is like running a three ring circus.

You have the elephants that want to slow everything down, the clowns’ intent on turning your meeting into a slapstick show and the lions in the wings waiting to bite your head off!

There is a way to be a proficient ringmaster… you just need to focus on task, time and keep the people happy.

Here are three tips to make your next meeting more effective.

1. Have an objective and an agenda

A meeting with out an agenda is like going on a trip without a map.

Do your meetings start like the hiking trip from hell?

Q: “Where are we going?”

A: “Oooo, ahhh, dunno haven’t thought about that!”

Q: “Ok then, how long will we be?”

A: “Around three hours, maybe?”

Q: “Well… what do we need to bring?”

A: “Oh, just yourselves… maybe a notepad…”

Does this sound like some of the meetings you have attended in the past? How is your anxiety level?

The solution is to have an objective and agenda. Even if it is an informal meeting a quick email like this will let people know what to expect:

Hi Team,

 Re: Product launch

We need to catch up next week to finalise the product launch details:

Date: Next Tuesday the 28th in the board room

Time: 9.30 – 10.20

Objective: To finalise the roles and running sheet for the launch

Please Read: The marketing brief

Please Bring: Ideas on items for the running sheet

Clearly set out the expectations of the group and the preparation they need to do before the meeting. Many people feel uncomfortable coming up with ideas on the spot so let them know in advance that you will be asking for their input.

2. Include the team

You invited them to attend so include them in the conversation. Set some ground rules where people agree to get involved, listen to others and be respectful. Empower everyone to speak up when the meeting goes off task. Spread the meeting roles so everyone has a change to contribute. Don your ringmaster top hat and ensure people play fair.

3. Summarise frequently and agree on action items

People love to see progress. Summarise decisions made and items to be actioned. These action items (What, by whom and by when) need to be on the front page of the minutes so people can clearly see what they need to do before the next meeting.

Finish when you said you would and congratulate them for staying on task and on time. If there is unfinished business roll it over to the next meeting.


Managing meetings is tricky, but by applying a bit of thought and working on your communication skills you can have the elephants dancing, the clowns performing and the lions jumping through hoops!

Sharon Ferrier
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