Conducting Meetings

Dear Coach,

I’m currently working with a senior level manager who conducts meetings on a frequent basis. He asked me for advice on how to make meetings more effective. Do you have any suggestions?



Dear Michael,

Yes! Did you know that an estimated 55 million meetings occur in the United States every day! Wow! What if we improve their efficiency or effectiveness by 2%? What would that mean?? Here are eight tips for how to make the most of meetings.

  1. Before you add your share to the 55 million, ask yourself: “Do we really need this meeting?”
  • Agenda. Have you ever been in a meeting that lacked direction? More than once? More than 1,000 times? A great way to prevent this problem is for somebody to take responsibility for coming up with a clear agenda. I recommend sending a proposed agenda in advance of the meeting and inviting others to give their input or suggestions.
  • Attendance and attention. I’ve suffered through too many meetings where someone comes in consistently late, and then wants to be caught up on what he or she missed. Commitment to attendance and timeliness should be nonnegotiable. A related rule: no phones, no web-surfing, no emails, no texts or other forms of distraction. Encourage participants to be fully present by keeping their devices at bey.
  • Discussion flow. Ever been in a meeting where it’s like herding cats? Discussion seems to be all over the place – no coherence or discipline. To avoid this problem, the leader should ensure good flow. This includes time management and ensuring fully participation. Don’t let the extroverts do all the talking.
  • Ask, don’t tell. If you are the meeting leader, your job is to facilitate, not opine. Bring out what others have to say – their thoughts and ideas. The more you facilitate and the less you opine, the better your meeting ROI.
  • No assumptions. Establish a rule that disagreement is fine provided the disagreeing party first confirms with the other party what he or she is about to disagree with. Too many meetings get bogged down in mutually reinforcing negative and mostly erroneous assumptions about each other and their positions. This simple rule eliminates that problem.
  • Recap. Don’t end the meeting without a recap. Share what you think are the key takeaways and invite others to let you know if you missed anything.
  • The Same Day Summary (SDS). Readers of my Ask the Coach column know I am a zealous advocate of the SDS. If you’re the meeting leader, an SDS should follow shortly after each meeting. More on this topic here.

I hope this helps Michael.



Jathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at


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