Seven Rules for More Effective Meetings

Earlier this week, I attended a very productive meeting. It was long, but we accomplished what we set out to do. We made significant decisions, established accountabilities, and left the meeting knowing exactly what was expected of us. I think everyone left feeling that it was a good use of time.

Business Meeting with Depth of Field - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #77653

Photo courtesy of ©

Unfortunately, too many corporate meetings don’t go this well. Often, they are a complete waste of time. But the good news is that they can be substantially improved by observing a few simple rules. Here is my list of seven rules for more effective meetings.

  1. Establish hard edges. Good meetings start and end on time. When you start late, you inadvertently penalize the punctual and reward the tardy. This only make the problem worse rather than better. People get “trained” to come late because they know nothing significant will happen until well after the announced start time.

    When you finish late, you also frustrate participants. People are busy. Meetings that finish late cascade into other meetings which must then also start late. Instead, we have to be as disciplined about our ending times as our beginning times. It’s amazing how much you can cover if you know you absolutely must finish on time.

  2. Create an agenda. I don’t think any meeting should proceed without an agenda. If it’s not important enough to create a written agenda, then it’s not important enough to attend. Leaders must set the example here.

    They need to think about the topics to be covered and how the meeting should flow. I always like to start the meeting with a review of the minutes from the previous meeting (more about this in a minute). I like to end every meeting with two items: a review of the agreed-upon action items and setting—or confirming—the date for the next meeting. Agendas should always be circulated in advance of the meeting, so that people know what to expect and how to prepare.

  3. State the desired outcome. If you are the leader, it is important to know exactly what outcome you want from the meeting. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you have arrived?

    I would suggest that you state the desired outcome in the meeting invitation and then re-state it as you begin the meeting. For example, “the purpose of our meeting is to report on the results of our latest market research and give you a chance to ask questions.” Or “the purpose of our meeting is to evaluate prospective titles for John Maxwell’s new book and decide which one we are going to recommend to the author.” Or “the purpose of our meeting is to review the company’s Q3 operating results and provide a progress report on our five strategic initiatives.”

    By stating the outcome, the participants can work together to achieve it and keep the meeting from wandering off-track.

  4. Review the minutes and action items. The first thing I do in any meeting is to review the minutes and action items from the previous meeting. This gives the participants context and gives those that were absent an opportunity to get up-to-speed.

    You also want to get a progress report on each action item from the person responsible for it. If you make a habit of always doing this, people will soon learn that you expect them to complete their assignments. If they have to give an account in front of their peers, so much the better. This may give them the added “incentive” to complete their assignments, so that they are not embarrassed in front of their colleagues.

  5. Take written minutes. Someone should take minutes, even if the meeting only has two participants. However, detailed notes that chronicle the discussion as it unfolds are usually—in fact, almost always—unnecessary. In most meetings, recording the key decisions and action items are sufficient.

    You want to document decisions, so there is no misunderstanding later. You want to document action items, so that you can hold people accountable and track progress. Beyond that, you’re probably just engaging in busy work. You should distribute minutes as soon after the meeting as possible, so that participants can review the key items while they are fresh in their memory as well as review what is expected of them.

  6. Clarify action items. At the end of the meeting, the person recording the minutes should read off the action items. It is particularly important that these be stated in a specific format.
    • Start each action item with a verb. For example, “Review Milford contract with the agent” or “Call Jim and get latest turnover figures.”
    • Specify the deliverable. What exactly do you expect the person completing the action to do. It must be an observable behavior with a specific end-point. It may be a phone call, a written report, or a presentation. It should not be a process.
    • Assign a single owner to each action. No action should have more than one owner. You want one person to blame if the action isn’t completed.
    • Agree on a due date. Get a commitment from the person responsible. Be realistic but put it in writing. This is a commitment and should be treated as such.
  7. Determine the next meeting date. This is easy to do when everyone is together. Everyone should be encouraged to bring their calendar to the meeting (or their iPad, iPhone, or Blackberry).

    If the meeting disperses without setting the next date, it makes it that much harder to schedule the next meeting. Take advantage of everyone being in one place to get this settled. It’s one less thing you have to do later.

Improving the quality of meetings takes work. Every once in a while we need to step back from the meeting itself and ask, “How can we make our time together more productive?” We need to be honest. Meetings consume a lot of resources. The more efficient they are, the better the return on our investment.

Question: What else do you think is necessary for effective meetings? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Ian

    I am the leader of a 35 person student project team at Cornell University. We have a weekly 1-2 hour long “leaders meeting” (11 attendees total) to go over each sub-project’s progress over the past week and (re-)plan next week’s tasks.

    Since the meeting is regularly scheduled, and every meeting involves the same series of updates and re-planning, is it still appropriate/effective for me to create and disperse a written agenda ahead of time? (Points 2, 3, and 7)

    I used to send out agendas but on the weeks where nothing “bad” was disrupting our plans, it devolved into: “get status update and make appropriate changes to schedule.”

  • Michael Hyatt

    No, i don’t think you need to send out an agenda for a standing meeting with a fixed agenda. I have one of these, too, and I don’t send out an agenda in advance. Thanks.

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  • Tobin

    Do you know of any research protocol on meetings with a cross regional meeting. When I worked in Europe they were very good about never having an extended team dial into a team room because of the mixed user exerience. Even though 5 members were in the same building none of us would get into a team room because the the rest of the team was all over teh continent. Any advice?

  • Pingback: Effective Meetings: The Participant’s Responsibility « Laurinda On Leadership()

  • joanna

    Great points. Last year I was on a committee that rarely did any of those. This year I’m on a committee in a different organization that does those things most of the time. The difference is huge. The second committee gets so much more done and is so much more pleasant to be involved in.

    One thing I would add is that in addition to communicating the purpose of that particular meeting it is often helpful make sure that everyone involved knows the overarching goals and values of the committee/organisation/ministry/business ect.  These values and goals provide a framework with which topics to be discussed in the meeting can be evaluated and appropriate decisions made in an effective manner. In the ministry I help lead we have a clearly defined 3 part purpose statement that most if not all of our leaders could recite from memory which we often measure proposals against. It is so important because we get more good proposals and ideas from within and outside the ministry we can act on so we need to pick only those that are the very best fit to our goals and values. Without a clear communication of these goals and values you can end up with everyone working off different unspoken ideas about what the organization is meant to achieve which often results in very different conclusions, a lack of clear and appropriate direction and lots of unnecessary talking round in circles. That makes for rather unpleasant and often quite long meetings.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Excellent point about overarching goals. Thanks.

    • Kay Wilson

      Good addition to Michael’s post, especially the “overarching Goals” so we all know we are on the same page.

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Good point about everyone knowing the overarching goals.

    • Theresa Ip Froehlich

      Joanna, You are right on about putting any specific meeting in the context of the organization’s purpose, vision and values.

      • Jmhardy97

        I agree. How many times have we attended meetings and they really had no purpose. We just had a meeting to have a meeting. Great point.


  • Craig Jarrow


    Love this post… For me, the two most important are #1 and #6.

    1 – Hard edges – Many companies suffer from “late meetings.” And to your point, they punish the punctual and reward the tardy. How many times have you had to restart a meeting at the 20 minute mark?

    2 – Clear Action Items – It always amazes me how many meetings have no outcome. Everyone just walks away like they weren’t even there. Why bother meeting in the first place if there isn’t going to be any action taken? 

    Of course, I am a bit overly passionate on the subject. :)  
    Here is a post I wrote called, “9 Reasons You Should Skip That Meeting.”


    • Dave Hearn

      Craig, I was just going to highlight those two as well.   You’re spot on–thanks for the additional insight!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing the link, Craig.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Craig, I agree with your view on point 1. I can see how frustrating it could be to have to restart the meeting 20 minutes into it. At that point, I would wonder if restarting the meeting is even worth it.

      • Michael Hyatt

        I think it also inadvertently penalizes the people who are on time.

        • Joe Lalonde

          You’re right Michael. It does penalize those who show up on time while doing nothing to penalize and change the behavior of the offender.

          Of course, it can be a hard thing to change when it’s the boss who’s the late one.

      • Steven Cribbs

        It is incredibly frustrating to restart meetings as people show up late.  You try your best to start on time – honoring those who did make it on time; and, trying to get everything done and end on time.  Then, each time someone comes in (when multiple people are late) you feel like you have to stop and recount what’s happened so that they can be a productive part of the meeting and you can get everyone’s input like you originally desired.

        At some point, you just  have to keep going and hope that a culture will grow in which people want to be on time.

        • Michael Hyatt

          But you can change this. Really, you can. Culture is nothing more than the behavior of an organization’s leaders. CHange the behavior and you change the behavior. Even if you can’t change the other leaders’s behavior, you can change yours. Let the change begin with you and see what a difference it makes.

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Meetings that go on forever can be SO frustrating.  It seems like the person running them doesn’t value the attendees’ time.

      • Michael Hyatt

        That’s why it is good to book something else—even a meeting with yourself—when you want to exit.

        • Steven Cribbs

          Great idea!  I learned awhile back that it is ok, important even, to consider a scheduled lunch with my wife or family as a ‘real’ lunch appointment – meaning that if I have a conference call or meeting that encroaches on the time, I can bow out of it by saying that I have a lunch appointment that I have to get to.  Everyone seems to accept that without question and it shows my family that they really are important.

          • Jmhardy97

            I use Michaels planning tool and with that I schedule a family night and a date night with my wife. It works well. I also send a copy to my boss so he knows my schedule one year out.


      • Steven Cribbs

        Especially frustrating when the ‘forever’ does not seem to be accomplishing anything or when it is mostly a conversation between just two other people.

    • David Santistevan

      Great stuff. I read recently in David Allen’s “Ready For Anything” that “shared responsibility works only when at least one person assumes that he or she will be totally responsible”. So true.

    • Jmhardy97

      Thank you for sharing your post. I thought it had some good points.


  • levittmike

    Great post and instruction on how to have a meaningful meeting.  I have seen people come to meetings without any note taking devices (pen/pencil, paper, electronic, etc..).  

    I have sent them away to either grab a notepad, or just to go away, because they don’t have photographic memory.  

    Meaningful meetings also help prevent unnecessary meetings.  Many years ago, my brother worked for an organization that had a meeting to discuss why they have so many meetings.  I love irony.


  • John Richardson

    Insightful post, Michael. I’ve learned a lot about meetings by being part of Toastmasters for over 10 years. One thing we stress at our meetings is that they start and end on time and they have a written agenda with job descriptions set before the meeting. This helps everyone to know what is expected of them and that their time won’t be wasted by a meeting that starts late or runs over.

    The other thing I’ve learned is that things happen ( people get called to other meetings, running late in traffic etc) and last minute changes are almost a necessity. This is where flexibility comes in. Before our meeting starts, the Toastmaster (leader of the meeting) will ask for volunteers to fill in any empty job duties, and instruct the audience of any changes to the agenda. This is key, especially for club officers or more experienced members to be able to step in at the last minute and fill vacancies.

    As our TM meetings come to a close, we always have a General evaluator give an overall report on the meeting and how we can improve for the next time. This is very helpful, especially for new members, to see how a meeting should be run

    Over the years I have found that having a great leadership team that communicates well will lead to successful meetings. Accountability is important, but being able to cover for each other makes for less stress and more fun. When we tone down the blame for things gone wrong and build up the team for things done well, we have friendlier meetings and a much better retention rate.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Excellent, John. It sounds like you have learned way more than public speaking from Toastmasters.

      • John Richardson

        I sure have, Mike. Toastmasters offers a leadership track as well as a communication track for their members. TM is a great place to practice leadership and learn how to run a successful meeting. When I’m on vacation , I usually like to drop into a local club for a visit. I’ve visited quite a few over the years, but nothing compared to the Sandpiper club in Ventura, Ca. When I attended their meeting, all the members were dressed professionally, and it was run like a precision timepiece. I learned so much from seeing it in action and was able to take back some great meeting ideas to my local club. When you experience a well run meeting, it just feels good! You can find out more about the leadership track here…

        • Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, John. I will check it out.

        • B_Schebs

          John,  Thanks for all your knowledge about Toastmasters. I have been thinking about going to a meeting and your insight is realling driving me towards attending soon. Thank You!

    • Theresa Ip Froehlich

      John, What a good practice to have habitual evaluation of meetings!

      • John Richardson

        An overall evaluation of a meeting is very helpful to improve future events. It’s a great way to tighten things up and give praise for a job well done.

    • Jmhardy97


      good insight. Begging and ending on time is always important. When meetings go long after the scheduled time, it can cause problems for many people and they tend to find reasons not to attend the next meeting.


  • Chris Cornwell

    Creating the agenda has become the biggest thing in meetings I attend. As a church staff we purposely open our meetings with successes. What can we celebrate about each ministry area. Then the floor is open as to what is going on in each area and where everyone is headed. This is also the time to “discuss” things. For me, I tend to sound negative here. Not because I am depressing, but because I want to discuss various things that need to be tweaked and/or fixed. So long, open conversations happen that, at times, lead to arguments. No agenda. That is changing. 

    • Theresa Ip Froehlich

      Chris, Celebrating successes at the beginning of each meeting really sets a positive tone for the rest of the meeting, so people’s brains don’t get into a “fight or flight” mode from the beginning. I have learned more about leadership by parenting (I should say by making mistakes as a parent). I have found that, children, employees, or anyone we lead or work with, respond better to affirmations for positives.

      • Chris Cornwell

        I really enjoy the celebration of successes. I was just speaking more
        along the lines of just always having an “open floor” policy. With no
        agenda, we usually end up going around in circles. Guess i wasn’t
        clear in my explanation. I just think that sometimes that process gets
        abused to cover up the fact that there are things that need to be
        See where I am going?

  • David Santistevan

    Fantastic outline. With the meetings I’ve been a part of, the action items always seem to be cloudy. To go around the room and have each member of the meeting state what they’re going to do is so huge.

    Also, I’m a fan of no electronic devices in meetings. I find it to be a major distraction from people being “present” in the meeting. It’s too tempting to check Twitter and get “work done”. All it does is contribute to the boredom of the meeting. Come fully present and come ready to contribute. I heard Tim Sanders say that if you’re catching up on work during meetings it’s a sign of poor task management. I’ve tried to approach my meetings like a task. If I didn’t contribute, I’ve failed.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The challenge with electronic devices is that so many people are using them now to take notes.

      • David Santistevan

        True. I suppose it’s possible to have an electronic device and not be distracted. Just takes discipline.

      • Chad M. Smith

        I would argue by merely saying, for the sake of the abusers who can’t control themselves, those who would normally take electronic notes could abstain, regress, and be willing to sit with a yellow pad and pen like everyone else.

        • David Santistevan

          Definitely worth a try, right?

        • brad

          In a meeting, my computer:
          – stores my copy of the agenda
          – shows minutes from the last meeting
          – acts as a note-taking device
          – enables me to access pertinent info that I can add to the meeting
          – allows me to contact someone whose feedback we need in the meeting (maybe)
          – enables me to start implementing decisions immediately

          It seems like an overreach to forbid the presence of my machine under the assumption that I’m going to abuse it. (Trust me, I can also zone out and doodle on paper just as easily if I’m so inclined.) I bet I could make a stronger case for my device to add efficiency and effectiveness to the meeting at hand than for it to be a distraction. And I’m far from the most always-on guy I know!

          • Chad M. Smith


          • B_Schebs

            Great Points Brad

    • Ryan

      I agree that some people get distracted. It’s probably best if leadership makes it clear that electronic devices are fine for taking notes and checking a calendar but not for doing other work. As long as people understand how they are supposed to use their technology, they may not abuse it.

      It’s also very important like you said to be “present.” Once someone drifts off and starts thinking about other work, they might as well not be there.

      • David Santistevan

        I have a hard time staying present with my laptop in the room. I do meetings best with a physical notebook.

        • Michael Hyatt

          Me, too.

          • B_Schebs

            For Me, I place my iPad into Airplane Mode when I walk in the door to work.  This way, I have to make a clear decision to connect to the internet. It helps me to be present and only use it for notetaking and calendar purposes.

      • James Hansen

        I agree. I have to disconnect my notebook from the internet during meetings.

    • Chad M. Smith

      Sorry David. I made the same comment before scanning your comment. You said it better than I.

      • David Santistevan

        No problem! I do that all the time :) Especially on blogs with hundreds of comments it’s easy to do.

  • Anonymous

    Since I work in an environment that uses Outlook, I always send meeting invites in Outlook with the agendas in the body of the message.  Then I send a reminder e-mail the day before the meeting.  As part of the clarifying action set, I also ask the person who is being assigned to the task if they understand what is being asked of them and if they have any questions.  I also remind people of the resources available to them and who to contact with any questions.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is an excellent system.

    • Ryan

      I rarely get or send out agendas before meetings. Thanks for the tips on how you do it.

  • Mike Greenberg

    This is great! I’m going to stick it in EverNote ~ and try to remember to reference it until the processes become habit.

  • Jared Hallal

    Michael, Your post this morning comes at a particularly important time for me. As co-chair of a Strategic Marketing Committee at our Catholic School, I would have to say I do most of these, but order is important, and timing.

    I have no problem with #1, #2, and #6, but so often, I get the other ones out of order. For example, I will state the desired outcome, but it’s only in the email and then later in the meeting. Or we review the action items for that meeting, but it’s not at the end.

    The worst, though, is when I leave a meeting, not setting the next meeting. Mostly this is because not everyone brings their calendar to the meeting(s). Why would anyone not bring a calendar of their life to an important meeting, I do not understand. This will be a place where I encourage others to participate better.

  • Jonathan

    A very important task that is often overlooked is keeping the meeting on track. It is so easy to spin out onto a side discussion, or get lost in the small details that are important, but not something that really involves all the people in the meeting. That’s a hard job to assign to just one person, because it could be that one person is the one on a tangent, but it can often be the difference between a good meeting or a bad one. Especially time-wise.

    While I  mention involving all the members of the meeting, not all of the members necessarily need to contribute. Some may just be there for the information, or just in case they have a needed insight. I’m reminded of Star Trek: The Next Generation where everyone sitting around the table with the Captain has at least one line. That is not necessarily going to be the case in an effective meeting.

    • Robert Ewoldt

      Very true.  This is the hardest part about bad meetings… the tangents and rabbit trails are painful.

      • brad

        I’m taking this to heart. I try not to initiate them, but I love tangents when they start going. I’m going to be even more self-aware about this from now on.

        There is a challenge in that, though. It’s sometimes tough to distinguish between fully understanding an issue and its implications, and going off on a wild-goose chase.

  • Scott Kantner

    I would add that just the right audience be present, rather than a cast of thousands.   Also,  I am not a fan of generic “status” meetings, which take the form of reporting to your supervisor in front of the cast of thousands.   If the status meeting is in the context of a specific project however, that’s a different matter, but otherwise it’s a waste of other’s time.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Scott, that is true. I was just listening to a podcast from Andy Stanley about this. Large groups in meetings cannot be given the specifics of a situation. Break down the attendance to the key figures and have them help spread the message.

    • Steven Cribbs

      You hit a good point Scott!  It does make a big difference to make sure the right people are at the right meeting – the meeting needs to fit all of those that you have invited.  Otherwise, it is just a big waste of time.

  • Rob

    Great points Michael…
    I think many people have bought into the myth that ‘organization and structure’ is not cool.  Nothing of importance ever gets done without vision, plans and actions.  To the vision point…I think every group that meets should have a ‘team charter’.  This charter should establish the vision and goals of the group.  It should establish ground rules for the group.  It should outline goals for the group.  All ‘action agendas’ and ‘action minutes’ should tie back in some way to the vision and goals outlined in the charter.  If you start chasing rabbits you should put the item in a ‘parking lot’ and deal with it at another meeting or pass it off to another group in the organization that should be responsible for dealing with it.  People don’t always admit this; however, most people really want to GET THINGS DONE that will have a positive impact on the success of the organization!  This is very difficult without vision, plans and targeted actions. 

    • Ryan

      I love having a vision for the group. I have been in organizations “fighting fires” and simply reacting to problems instead of taking time to look ahead and make sure we are moving in the right direction. It makes a big difference on long term success.

    • Michael Hyatt

      All excellent points. Thanks.

  • Ryan

    Great tips. I’m rarely in meetings that hit all 7 points, but I see this as an opportunity to be a leader and make my meetings more productive.  I really like the ideas of minutes with action items and key decisions plus reviewing the status of each action item at the beginning so everyone is held accountable to the group.

  • Jpprespa

    Meetings have to have purpose. Too many times I am called into a meeting to just have an information dump. If I leave a meeting without action items, I question why this couldn’t have happened at my desk or over email.

    • Dylan Dodson


    • Michael Hyatt

      I actually think information briefings can be productive, if they allow for questions. There are just somethings that are two cumbersome to do via email. Thanks.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Jpprespa, the meetings for my current project seem to fall into the information dump category right now. However, I see value in doing an information dump to the attendees. It allows me to inform the key players in this project of what is going on and then they are able to ask questions and we can create action items.

      Maybe the issue with the meetings that you are attending is the fact that they are not allowing time for questions?

  • Jason Fountain

    I’ll also point out that the “problem” with meetings is not just a corporate issue. In the education system, we are notorious for meetings without a purpose. Nothing annoys me more than to have a meeting and the leader uses this time to make announcements. Announcements should never be the reason for a meeting. Send announcements in an email.

    This is a great list. Establishing hard edges is key and also having a clear purpose for the meeting. If we get in the habit of having meetings when we need to accomplish action items and not just meet to meet, then we’ll condition everyone to be prepared for action during our meetings. It’s really about establishing a mindset.

    • David Santistevan

      Jason, this is a great point. I concur. I’m always frustrated when leaders simply state the obvious or what could easily be addressed in an email. What makes meetings unique? Probably dialogue, decision-making, and action steps. 

  • Daren Sirbough

    These are great points. I forwarded the e-mail to my Worship Pastor. Hopefully if I send him enough, he’ll subscribe to your blogs. I find them very useful and empowering to myself. That’s a great place to start but I really want to empower the others on my team too!

    • David Santistevan

      We worship leaders can be a tough batch :) Michael’s blog has helped me tremendously as a worship leader. I’m a much smarter worker because of it.

  • Dylan Dodson

    I like when desired outcome is stated and people stay focused on reaching that. It’s very frustrating when people start getting off-topic or start giving answers that no one will really follow through on.

    • Anonymous

      I understand, I often find myself asking the person getting us off topic what part of the agenda this is related to so I can keep my notes straight and then if they cannot relate it to something, I ask them if this is something that should be put on the agenda for a future meeting.

      • Michael Hyatt

        Great response.

      • David Santistevan

        That’s hardcore. That’ll silence the loud mouths :)

      • B_Schebs

        This is a great idea.  Allows you to call out the person, without throughing them under the bus.  Thanks

  • Joe Lalonde

    Thanks for the great article about effective meetings. Recently, I’ve had to start holding meetings for a project that we are working on. I have to admit, it intimidates me as I’ve not been involved in many meetings in the past. Even though our meetings on this project will be short, I think the points you made can be adjusted to fit them.

  • Jeff Kaldahl

    Thanks for the insight.  You mentioned that you just held a long, albeit successful, meeting the other day.  In general, do you have any recommendations for length of meetings (besides the standard ‘as short as possible.’).  And during necessarily long meetings…how do you handle those.  Perhaps a future post if you don’t have time here.

    God Bless!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Actually, I do believe in making meetings as short as possible. However, there are some meetings that require more length—occasionally a day or two. I think the key is having an objective for each segment and mixing up the activities.

  • W. Mark Thompson

    Great list. How I wish this list of 7 was posted at the doorway of some meetings I’ve been a part of. Can widdle this down and use it to help me stay on track as a solopreneur too during my planning and scheming time. Of course, if debate breaks out for any length of time, there’s probably other issues going on besides these seven points above since it’s just me.

    • TNeal

      Your comments, outside of making me laugh, help me refocus on the 7 points. Since you’re a solopreneur, and my main task is done solo, how can I use these points as guidelines? And would they help in a conversation with my wife? Naw, I don’t think that last idea will fly.

      • W. Mark Thompson

        Not sure about your schedule and daily routine. But I can tell you how they affect me during my day. Maybe that can help. I work by myself daily. So time management (which is really priority management) is my daily challenge.

        I will take each of these points above and use them to develop personal “meeting blocks”. These meeting blocks will be in the form of product development. They will be in the form of tasks to accomplish getting certain mechanics accomplished like building web pages, uploading a video to be used in my work, writing an offer to be reviewed later (so I can read again after I’ve been away from it for a while), etc.

        They can be in the form of blocking off a chunk of time to brainstorm ideas of helpful blog posts and articles. I could go on. But I think this post today has some very helpful ideas that people can use as individuals, as managers, as CEOs.

        It can be used where you are whoever you are if you’re looking for a better structure and a smoother, productive day. Not sure if that answers your question. But hope it helps.

        • TNeal

          Thanks, Mark, for taking the time to reflect on the practical side for the person working at home.  The main thought you generated was to recognize, although I typically don’t lead meetings nor have to attend meetings, I can filter Michael’s seven points through my individual situation. You helped me see that. Your additional thoughts clarify the point even more.–Tom

          • W. Mark Thompson

            Glad you could make some sense of my ramblings and it could help. Blessings, Tom!

  • Christie McRae

    There is no place for a personal agenda.  No one should be intimidated or feel threatened if their ideas differ from others or if there are conflicts between others that are brought into the meeting and played out in the discussion.  That only shuts down communication and hurts the company. 

    • Rob

      I totally agree.  This ties back to the ‘ground rules’ idea that should be part of a written team ‘charter’ that I talked about earlier.  The leader should control ‘aggressive’ people by going around the table and writing every persons ideas on a white board or a flip chart.  If the group is trying to decide which idea or ideas they should move forward with the leader could then ask everyone in the group to ‘rate’ the top 5 ideas.  The best idea would get a 5, the second a 4, etc.  The idea or ideas that have the most points at the end of this process would then be considered the ‘consensus’ of the group.  This keeps 1 or 2 people from dominating every issue.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I think one of the tasks of the leader or meeting facilitator is to create an environment that is “safe for dissent.”

  • Lantz Howard

    What are your recommendations if there is never a agenda at a meeting and it happens every week? And you can only imagine what happens without a agenda. We chase rabbits the whole time. Is it fair to stop going to meetings unless someone makes an agenda?

    • Anonymous

      I have meetings like that I suggested to the meeting organizer that an agenda be made to help us stay on track and to make the meeting more effect and then I provided a sample to them with the key items we were working on and they agreed to use it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think this is a cultural issue. It might be worth having a meeting about how you can be more productive in meetings. Let everyone brainstorm, so there is ownership. Write out a list of meeting rules and then start practicing them. You can’t change culture unless you address specific behaviors.

  • Anonymous

    How much planning time do you give yourself to prepare your outline, agenda, etc?

    • Michael Hyatt

      It really depends on the meeting. If it’s a standing meeting, it might not take long. If it’s a meeting we have never had, it could take hours.

  • Anonymous

    Love these suggestions.  I typically hate meetings, probably because I’ve been involved in so many 20 minute meetings that lasted three hours.  When I’m leading meetings, I probably err on the side of brevity, so I’m often concerned that I haven’t allowed everyone to provide input.    We try to start on time, but I hadn’t thought of nailing down the stop time.

  • Oleg Sinitsin

    Great input! A few more thoughts:

    (1) Moderate the meeting – Stay focused on agenda, manage repetition and wandering off topic. Summarize discussion and move on to the next item.
    (2) Respect everybody’s time – Only invite people who need to be there. You don’t have to use the whole time slot. Don’t hesitate to take items off-line when necessary.
    (3) Prepare audience – Whenever possible, ask attendees to review information ahead of time.

    Just think about this. A well-managed meeting puts the organizer in the position of influence. This is a great tool for organizational leadership regardless of a job title.

    • Michael Hyatt

      These are great suggestions.

    • TNeal

      “You don’t have to use the whole time slot.” You sound like my wife when I preach. People may not appreciate what you have to say but they’ll love your message if it’s short.

      I remember standing in line at a Disney World ride. The sign said, “Wait from here 30 minutes.” When I boarded the ride, I noticed we only waited a little over 20 minutes, less than projected. Overestimating the time and giving back those minutes left a positive impression, a lesson worth repeating in preaching or in going through a meeting’s agenda.

      • Evans2807

        Popular restaurants will also over- estimate wait times – it makes me feel better about my dining experience to be called early.

        • TNeal

          I must go to all the unpopular ones then. Actually, you’re right but, even when the wait is shorter, something about hunger makes it seem longer.

  • Tim Keller


    Great post about meetings.  I definitely agree with the “hard edges” to honor peoples time as well as the “action items” so that nobody leaves confused.  As a former executive, I have been a part of many meetings that consumed time and effort and produced minimal results.  Now as a pastor and leader of a church, I have had to adjust some of my corporate meeting strategy.  It is one thing to lead our paid staff, but quite another to lead our volunteer teams.  When leading meetings attended primarily by volunteer leaders, I break the meetings into 3 parts: 

    1.  Relational Component:  Because most of my volunteer leaders don’t spend 40+ hours a week in an office together, it is critical that we spend time connecting relationally.  I have found that people are more effective and satisfied in thier ministries if they enjoy the people that they minister with.  About 1/3 of my meetings are devoted to intentionally connecting relationally.  Because most of my volunteer leader meetings take place after normal working hours or on the weekend, I try to incorporate food in this component as much as possible .

    2.  Spiritual/Leadership Development:  Because nobody derives a paycheck for their involvement, it is critical to be reminded of why we do what we do.  We look into the Bible every time we gather.  God’s Word is not only inspirational and motivational, but also very practical.  It seems that, no matter what we are facing as a team, someone in Biblical history has either talked about it or dealt with it (either the right or wrong way) and we can learn.  Also, many of my leaders do not hold leadership positions in their workplace.  It is critical to help them develop into thier leadership role.  This 1/3 of our meeting is very beneficial to our emerging leaders.

    3.  Tactical Component:  This is where we figure out who is doing what, when they are doing it and how it will happen.  Action items follow here so that everyone is clear.  I have learned that if the volunteer leaders I work with share the vision of our church and agree with the values that we use to accomplish the vision, I can release them to the tactical strategies without worry about alignment.  With all of our tactical plans rooted in our vision and values, this time is often spent brainstorming and collaborating on ideas.

    Hopefully this meeting arrangement can be helpful to those that are leading teams of volunteers.  Thanks for your leadership!


    • TNeal

      Tim, having served as a pastor, I can appreciate the wisdom reflected in your 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 formula. Add good food to the first third and I might even enjoy the meeting. The initial focus on community building is sound. Our relationships with others often make or break the effectiveness of a particular project or the general direction of the church. Good thoughts.–Tom

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great suggestions, Tim. These would make a great post on their own!

    • David Santistevan

      Tim, these are fantastic points. Particularly useful to we church leaders who minister with volunteers. I might have to copy and paste this into my next agenda :)

      • Michael Hyatt

        Seriously, it is worth training on this and getting everyone on the same page.

    • Anonymous

      Great suggestions!

  • Anonymous

    I think what you laid out is great for those running meetings. I like to get agendas out a few days out before the meetings so those that are coming have time to prepare. Those coming to a meeting also have responsibility to prepare (have their action items complete and come expecting to give input.)

  • jasondwillis

    Does anyone have an effective standarized agenda and/or minutes form that they could share?  We’ve struggle a lot to find an effective format.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You might take a look at Agenda 2 (Mac only, I’m afraid.) I have downloaded it, but I have not tried it.

  • Kay Wilson

    Thank you Michael, this is great stuff and should be read by all those leaders who ramble on and forget their agenda.  I am sharing this post with others.  

  • Charlie Lyons

    Fantastic thoughts here, Michael. I’m so glad for your insight and clarity of thought. Thank you!

  • Robert Ewoldt

    I’m currently on a committee that doesn’t handle some of these very well.

    • TNeal

      I don’t envy you and your position. By the way, enjoy your blog. It’s engaged me in some interesting conversations.

      • Robert Ewoldt

        Thanks! I’m looking forward to my new series (and, at the same time, a
        little apprehensive). I’m thankful to have other Christians involved in the

    • W. Mark Thompson

      Ooo! Two words that make me cringe when I hear together: “committee meeting”.  :)

      • Michael Hyatt

        Hey, please. Watch your language. I have a policy against profanity. ;-)

        • W. Mark Thompson

          Ha! My apologies, Michael. Sometimes I get thrown back to the days or the corporate cubicle and my emotions take over. Won’t happen again.  

  • Chad M. Smith

    You would think this would be a universally understood expectation and approach when asking people, or being asked, to give of your time in a meeting. Nope.

    These are super-sensible, Michael. Thanks for articulating these. The only one I would add is saying no to electronic grazing. Shut the laptops. I was in a meeting earlier in the week where the guy next to me was searching YouTube videos the whole time. It’s too tempting. It is not honoring the presence of the other people in the meeting. If a person (and I’m writing to myself because, to my shame, I’ve done it too) wants to surf, go back to your desk. If a person is not present mentally at a meeting, why be there physically?

  • Alex Humphrey

    Wow, great points. I’ve always thought Minutes were mostly busy work, but I like your take on them. Keep em simple: action items and decisions only.

    Most meetings are only as important as their outcome.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yea, the only real point is to have a record of the decisions for the sake of follow-up.

  • TNeal

    Meetings? I had two thoughts on this.

    First, yuck! The words “we’ve got a meeting” haven’t led to positive experiences in the past. I despise wastes of time. Second, thank goodness this post doesn’t apply to me. I don’t have meetings.

    I read it anyway. After all, we can learn even if we don’t have a specific application in mind. As I read, oh, yeah, I forgot that I coach in the fall. Oh, yeah, point #1 is important. Oh, definitely, point #2 hits our coaching staff. Point #3, another hit. After that, things got a little less applicable to the field.

    Good job of pulling me into some practical guidelines that do apply to where I live and what I do.

  • bethanyplanton

    I think these are great ideas for keeping a meeting effective. Some of them can also just be applied when someone sits down individually to work on a project. I know I always get a lot more accomplished if look over what I have previous down, create an agenda for what I need to get done, and set a time when I am going to finish working on that project. All those steps keep me focused on the task at hand instead of dragging it out. 

  • Theresa Ip Froehlich

    It is critical to have an effective facilitator who knows how to encourage equitable participation, draw out the quieter ones, move the agenda along, and read the decision-making group in the room. The facilitator can make or break a meeting!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely. These are skills that should—and can—be taught.

  • Johan Murillo

    Very useful points. I would suggest the following three:
    1. Set behavioral rules –  One conversation at a time, raise your hand, cell phones in silent mode, etc. I’ve seen IDEO’s teams printing and hanging this rules in their meeting room’s walls. This helps to create a meeting’s culture.
    2. Define a  Time Keeper – You can be flexible, but it is important to have someone taking care of time in order for you to take care of meeting’s deliverables.
    3. Use an “Ideas Parking Lot”  – Sometimes conversations can bring new ideas or other important topics but out of your meeting’s scope.  Having a Parking lot helps you to pay attention and write down people’s ideas but also refocus on your meeting’s purpose. You can include the Parking Lot in your minute, it will be a great source of next actions, future topics or improvement projects.

    • Michael Hyatt

      These are excellent suggestions. I think the one-conversation-at-a-time rule is critical. We practice this at our dinner table. It makes a huge difference.

  • Johan Murillo

    I do understand that this post is about the 7  rules for more effective meetings. However I would like to add that is important to take care of the principles for effective meetings. These are my 3 principles:

    1. The Effectiveness of your meeting is proportional to your meeting’s preparation quality.
    2. Lead by Example – Would you attend to your own meeting?
    3. Believe in the purpose/objetive of your meeting – Show your passion about it!

    I know there are more principles. I just want to encourage everyone to review our meeting’s principles/values and put in practice Michael’s 7 rules. I think this should help us to run effective meetings.

    Thanks for this post Michael.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Excellent principle, Johan. Thanks for sharing them.

  • Sloganvi

    When the purpose of a meeting is to make a decision, I have found it helpful to remember Peter Drucker’s wisdom:

    A Decision has NOT been made Until PEOPLE KNOW: 
    1. Name of person responsible for carrying it out.
    2. The Deadline 
    3. Name of other people affected by the decision & therefore have to know.
    4. Names of people who have to be informed, even though they may not be directly affected.

  • Geoff Talbot

    I love this… I usually detest meetings. But a meeting like the one described above. I could do. Thanks Michael

  • Luke Reynolds

    That’s funny. The list looks almost exactly like part of my Intro to Design class syllabus. Now I know that what I’m learning in school actually works in real life.

    • Jeff Randleman

      Funny how some classes translate well, while others are based in some alternate reality…

  • Ro

    This is VERY effective & useful to any meetings.. For sure I will share this to my work & and in my church..Thank you so much Michael for sharing yet another one of your BRILLIANT ideas to us. Your generosity is  greatly appreciated.. :-))GOD BLESS YOU….

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome!

  • Barbara Hemphill

    I’ve found that one of the major values of an agenda is that sometimes it’s helpful to have people attend the meeting for only the portions that apply to them

  • Chris Potts

    Solid post!!  Very informative and useful.

  • Daniel Decker

    Great tips. Thank you. Just shared this.

  • James Randorff


    I found this to (as usual) be a well-written  and insightful post from you.  The point about punctuality is critical… nothing is more demotivating than a meeting that doesn’t start on time due to a tardy participant.

    If I may address an issue: In point 6c, you mention that, “you want one person to blame if if the action isn’t completed.”  I think this could have been better-phrased, “you want to clearly define who is accountable for the completion of an action.”

    Accountability holds the potential for both positive and negative outcomes.  Blame is incapable of having a positive outcome, as it is, itself, a negative outcome.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your daily wisdom, Michael!


    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, James. I was going for a little tongue-in-cheek humor there. I guess it didn’t quite translate.

  • TNeal

    Someone has to take point in giving a meeting direction and having responsibility for shaping the agenda. In a recent coaches’ meeting (one after the head coach resigned), someone called us together to talk about the what next. Unfortunately calling a meeting and leading it are two different things. As the most senior but having the least seniority, I recognized the problem but couldn’t address it. I did at least give the meeting a hard edge by saying, “I have to leave by three.”

  • James

    I may have missed it, but did anyone speak of Lencioni’s approach to meetings? He seems to suggest that the agenda should be developed at the meeting. Of course, this is speaking about the weekly meeting, not the other 3 types of meetings.

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, but I read his book, had my entire executive team read the book, and have recommended it to others. I don’t remember him recommending that the agenda be developed in the meeting, but I could be wrong. Thanks.

  • Jmhardy97

    Very good and useful points. I have several meetings a day and you hit on all of the main points. Keep focus and getting to the point is always a challenge. If the meetings are not held right, they can lose meaning and value.


  • Dave Baldwin

    To keep things on track I have a “parking lot” section. So if some topic comes up that’s not on the agenda we put it in the parking lot and if we have time to discuss it we will, if not we put it on a future agenda.
    Thank you for another great post.

    • Jeff Randleman

      Great idea!

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    I think we need to design a meeting where the parts are integrated into the bigger whole. We should be able to relate different activities and sessions to the overall theme so it is clear why they are part of the event.  A great event is about integrated sessions, not disparate activities hobbled together.Secondly, care must be taken to make the meeting relevant. Speakers and presenters may be given the information and material they need to relate their presentations to the overall meeting. Specific requests can be made about what one would like to see covered.

  • Ed Seaver

    Our company, The Legacy Centre for Family Business and Entrepreneurship,  is working with business owners to help them learn how to “Live their Legacy” each day.  One of our objectives is to help them learn how to become servant leaders.  When this happens they can better serve their family, their employees and their customers. Thank you!

    Ed Seaver

  • Andy McMillan

    This is a great article. My next meetings will run much smoother

  • Nanharper

    Do Not Recap for Late Arrivals.   Those present respect Time enough to be on Time.   No late Introductions, and No special coutesy for those who show less respect by their tardiness.

  • Kym

    Great post, Michael.  We are sharing it and using it to tweek  our meetings at

    I have found it really helpful to put time parameters on each agenda item. Helps the leader and the participants keep the meeting effective and efficient.

    We also designate a prayer time for the beginning of each meeting.  Heps us know that personal issues are in good hands and brings the agenda and our mission into focus.

    I must confess to being a frequent late arriver.  I need to remind my business partners that I expect them to start on time even if I am not there.

    Thanks for this and so many other great posts!

  • Gail

    There’s few things more disrespectful in a workplace than wasting people’s time in meetings. Thanks for the list. If people follow it we’d all be more effective. Tips I give my team on meetings, in addition to those above, include:

    1) Don’t let meetings be your default communication method. Only call a meeting if you must. Always consider other, quicker forms of communication and decision making. This shows respect for other’s workloads and schedules.

    2) Always give time back. If you honestly think you need a 45 minute meeting, calendar in for 60 minutes and give attendees 15 minutes back into their day instead of stealing an extra 15 by asking for a 30 minute meeting.

    3) Know the purpose of the meeting, make it clear and stick to it. (Your point 3).

    4) Give people the information they need to prepare (past minutes, agendas, reading) and expect them to come prepared to the meeting. Don’t cover homework in the meeting for those who haven’t done it. That wastes everyone’s time and rewards undesirable behaviour.

    5) Remember the cake. For long meetings you need to remember to schedule in breaks, snacks and chat time to provide time for people to relax for a short time so they can stay focused for the duration. Cake also reminds us that we are social people and building relationships is good business, which often includes cake, coffee or donuts.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is a great list, Gail. Thanks.

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  • Dwight Carter

    Thank you for the reminders! As a building principal, I call and attend a number of meetings and I have to be reminded  to implement a couple of your points above. Time is precious to everyone so any strategy to make meetings more productive is greatly appreciated by all!

    Be Great,

  • Norm Edwards

    This is good insight.

    Lencioni adds one very helpful step to the process.  After action items are decided and before everyone leaves the room, it should be decided what information is to be disbursed from the meeting and to whom it should be disbursed.  This assures everyone is speaking the same language and that less assumptions are taken out of the room.

    Lencioni, P., (2004) Death by Meeting, Jossey-Bass

  • Jeff Randleman

    Great stuff, but sometimes difficult to implement.  I live in “good ole boy” country.  “We don’t need none o’that fancy meetin’ stuff…”  It’s hard to be productive as a team sometimes when the culture is so laid back about everything.

  • Lisa Dubernard

    Excellent.  I’ve been working a lot lately with software that helps manage meeting agendas called eBOARD.  I like how each item can be linked to goals for the organization.  And a goals scorecard showing how this entire meeting aligns.  I also like how it has an app for the iPad where I can take notes prior to during and refer to after the meeting.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That software looks very cool.

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  • Edwin Siebesma

    Very nice article, I completely agree. An effective meeting includes 3 steps:1. Preparation2. Actual meeting3. Follow-upUnfortunately steps one and three are often ignored or very poorly done and that makes the actual meeting a total waste of time. I just wrote a post about “How to create a meeting agenda” on my blog:

  • Dylan Dodson

    I like #1. Establishing hard edges will have people come to a meeting already knowing to be on time and prepared.

  • Mark Martin

    Leading a meeting later today, and just reviewed this post for the reminder.  Thanks for the tips!

  • Jmhardy97

    I use a format similar to this for the board meetings that I run and it is quite effective. I also send the minutes and agenda items out before the meeting. I want everything out in front of my attendees.


  • John Gallagher


    Great tips.  One more I might add would be for larger meetings.  Are there any ground rules?  No blackberries, silence them, technology, etc?  I also like to have what I refer to as a ‘parking lot’.  When there is a good idea that pops, but is out of the scope for the meeting, I sometimes have folks write it on a sticky note and we place it in a parking lot on a flip chart or even the wall.  We might do some assigning at the end of the meeting for someone to investigate.

    Your point about understanding what the deliverable of the meeting will be is so important.  Thanks for sharing.  John

    • Michael Hyatt

      Both good suggestions! Thanks.

  • jlnewman_55

    We have recently introduced MyMeetingPro for iPhone and iPad to help meeting organizers plan, conduct and document effective meetings. As more and more meeting participants utilize smartphones and tablets, tools such as these can help meeting leaders follow these rules and produce more effective meetings.

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  • Debbie Cruciotti

    Choose the meeting note taker

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  • jeni

    According to me , for an effective meeting : 
    1. There should be the purpose of a meeting to save time on communication. To convey information to a group at one time.
    It is important for you to know the purpose of a meeting for you to participate meaningfully.
    2. Procedure : All meetings are called using a notice and an agenda. It is important for us(secretary) to be familiar with and understand the rules and regulations that apply to the type of meeting being called and in particular, to deal with a matter.
    3. Date and time of the meeting.
    4. Quorum (the smallest number of members necessary at a meeting before any business can be done).
    5. The role of the secretary. 
    6. Venue.
    7. Notice and agenda.

  • David

    Create a group consensus on behaviour in the meeting ‘House Rules’ that the group will own and work to on an agreed basis

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  • Matthew Reed

    These are great points here.  I don’t have corporate meetings currently as a solo-business owner. I DO meet with my clients regularly. I am a coach, so these type of client meetings are pretty much all I do. These are the guidelines that pretty much rule these meetings (though the agenda is set by the client).

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  • RonChapman

    A culture that says coming to net meeting with some of your action items not completed is not acceptable.

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  • Lydia Hachero

    its nice to start the meeting with a prayer followed by a certain quote or passage from the bible or encouraging words with a bit explanation that will strengthen the members to pursue the purpose of the meeting or to avoid misunderstanding or the like. . .

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  • Dave Kashen

    Great post, Michael! I think another benefit of having an agenda is that people can make a more informed decision about whether or not to attend the meeting. In this day and age when people are constantly getting double-booked, it’s increasingly important to be able to appropriately prioritize your time. I also think too often people are unrealistic in setting agendas, and plan way too many topics or too ambitious outcomes for the time allotted. Better to tackle fewer items, and make sure to fully resolve each of them with clear decisions, next steps and accountabilities. I wrote a post on How to create an effective agenda – – would love to hear what you think!

  • Florendo Tejada

    who is the power to cancele the meeting

  • Ankit Hariyani

    How can you measure the punctuality of the meeting? Is there any technique or mechanism?