Meetings are an inevitable part of teamwork. They can be either boring and unproductive or highly rewarding. It pays to organize yourself to make the meetings worthwhile. What follows are suggestions on how to run meetings.

See almost any Dilbert for a caustic view of how not to run meetings - and in fact a wonderful way not to do most things in a humane and productive way.




Establish a regular time

It's much easier to have all members attend if there's a regular time that all have agreed they can make.

Everyone must come

Of course there are times when someone is sick, but the pattern should be that everyone is at every meeting.

  • If proper minutes are taken it will be evident if a member is habitually absent from meetings. If, as is likely, this member isn't contributing to the group's work you then have evidence that it is easy to present to an authority (professor, supervisor, etc.)
Keep to the promised ending time
People will take you much more seriously if they know the meeting will end on time.
Use an Agenda

Agendas establish what is going to be discussed at a meeting. It's easy to think of them as "too formal," but they really make a difference.

  • Agree on any modifications necessary at the start of the meeting.
  • It's very useful to establish a duration for each topic in advance. Stick to it.
  • New items should come at the end
Take Minutes

One person should take meeting minutes so there's a record, particularly of decisions, responsibilities and due dates

  • Shorter minutes organized by topic are better than long ones
  • Be sure to identify "action items" - things that the group has decided must be done. Assign both a person responsible and a due date.
  • Circulate the minutes rapidly - ideally within 24 hours of the meeting. If you don't people will have forgotten.
  • Record who was present (and absent) at the meeting
Recognize Everyone

Every group has "loud" members and "quiet" members. Make every effort to include everyone.

  • The quiet ones will often welcome being asked for their opinion. If they're not asked they may well sabotage group work since they don't feel committed to it.
Meet over Food
This is particularly useful for planning meetings within a group. It makes the social aspect of group work much more enjoyable.


Mistakes Teams Have Made

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Updated: 4/4/03