April 17, 2024
By John Hunter

If you've ever left a meeting feeling “this could have been an email at best, a Slack comment at worst," you're not alone. Seventy-one percent of senior managers claim meetings are unproductive and inefficient—71%! So yes, meetings get a bad rap—many times, deservedly so. 

But before you hit "delete" on all those meeting requests appearing constantly in your inbox or decide to drop them altogether, let's take a step back. The truth is that meetings are critical for teams—they facilitate discussion, alignment, and decision-making. 

So, the problem isn't meetings per se but how they are run. In this post, we’ll explain how to run meetings that spark action and drive results and provide some practical tips.

Types of Meetings

7 Types of Meetings

Understanding the different meeting styles is key to driving efficiency, productivity, and results. Here's a breakdown of the meeting formats that might be the perfect fit for your next strategy session: 

  1. Informational meetings: These gatherings are meant to share important news, updates, or other essential information with your team. It's usually a one-way presentation, with room for questions and discussions at the end. 
  2. Brainstorming meetings: In these meetings, everyone is encouraged to participate. They aim to generate new ideas or tackle specific challenges creatively.
  3. Decision-making meetings: As the name suggests, these meetings are held to make important decisions. They often involve presenting and discussing different options before reaching a consensus. 
  4. Progress or status update meetings: These meetings track progress on ongoing projects and initiatives. They typically involve team members' reports on their contributions and any challenges they face. 
  5. Training meetings: These sessions are designed to teach attendees new skills or provide them with new knowledge. An internal or external expert may lead them. 
  6. Webinars: Webinars are online presentations or workshops that allow attendees to learn about a specific topic remotely. They are perfect for training, demos, or gaining insights from industry leaders without the need for travel. 
  7. Internal meetings: These are meetings that occur within a specific team or department. They can be used for any of the purposes listed above but are typically more focused on the team's specific goals and initiatives. 

What Makes an Effective Meeting?

Efficiency shouldn't be mistaken for effectiveness. An efficient meeting might run like clockwork, but that doesn't mean it was worth everyone's time.  

An effective meeting, in contrast, goes beyond simply ticking tasks off a list. Here are a few components of an effective meeting: 

  • The Right Attendees: Invite only those who are critical to the discussion or decision so everyone's time is valued. 
  • Clear Purpose: Establish a clear objective at the beginning of the meeting so all the attendees know why they're there and the desired goal. Having a clear purpose prevents tangents and keeps the conversation on track. 
  • Open Discussion: Create a space where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas, even contradictory ones. This will encourage genuine participation from everyone in the room. 
  • Tangible Results: Effective meetings always result in concrete, actionable outcomes. These could be decisions made, plans formulated, or a shared understanding of the work ahead. 
  • Follow-Through: Document meeting minutes and action items and distribute them to participants and other stakeholders who need to be informed, ensuring everyone stays on the same page and can take action. 
Meeting tips

7 Steps for Organizing and Running Successful Meetings

The key to a successful and effective meeting lies in its organization and execution. Here are seven essential steps to ensure your meetings are effective, engaging, and purposeful: 

1. Planning the Meeting 

  • Setting Clear Objectives: Every successful meeting starts with a clear purpose. Define what you hope to achieve—deciding, brainstorming ideas, or communicating updates. For example, if the objective is to decide on a marketing strategy, ensure the meeting's goal is explicitly stated in the invitation. 
  • Choosing Participants: Invite only those whose presence is necessary for the meeting's objectives. This keeps discussions focused and efficient. For instance, if the meeting is on departmental budgets, include only the department heads and decision-makers from the finance team. 
  • Scheduling and Logistics: Pick a time that works for everyone, especially when dealing with different time zones. Use scheduling tools like Doodle or Google Calendar to streamline the process. Ensure the meeting location (physical or virtual) is accessible to everyone, and provide all necessary details in advance. 

2. Preparing the Agenda 

  • Structure the Agenda: Craft a clear and concise agenda that outlines every discussion point to keep things on track. Start with a warm welcome and a quick agenda review, so everyone's on the same page. Then, dive into the core of the meeting with the main discussion points. Leave ample time for open conversation and questions to ensure no crucial details are missed.  
  • Time Allocations: For a balanced and productive session, assign a specific amount of time to each agenda item. This helps maintain focus and ensures all topics are covered without anyone feeling rushed. 
  • Distributing in Advance: Share the agenda with participants at least a day before the meeting so everyone can prepare and have more productive discussions. For example, sending out the budget review meeting agenda in advance lets department heads come prepared with their financial reports and questions. 

3. Setting Up the Meeting Space 

  • Physical and Virtual Considerations: For physical meetings, ensure the venue is comfortable and equipped with tools like whiteboards and projectors. Platforms like Zoom and Teams are great for virtual events—just do a quick test run beforehand to avoid any tech hiccups later. 
  • Ensuring Technical Readiness: Connectivity issues can crash a meeting faster than you can say, "Can you hear me now?" A pre-meeting tech check prevents those awkward moments and ensures a smooth online experience for everyone. If some attendees are unfamiliar with the platform, provide a short guide on its use or a quick demo beforehand. Let them know how to mute/unmute their microphones, use chat features, and share their screen if needed. 

4. Conducting the Meeting 

  • Starting on Time: Starting on time shows respect for everyone's schedules and keeps the meeting focused. If a key decision-maker is running late, don't waste the time waiting around. Instead, use those extra minutes to efficiently cover agenda items that don't require their input. 
  • Facilitation Techniques: Use active listening, summarization, and question-asking to effectively guide the discussion. As a host, ensure that the meeting stays on topic and manage time wisely. An example of a facilitation technique is using a "parking lot" to note meaningful but off-topic discussions for future consideration. 
  • Keeping Engagement High: As a meeting host, make sure to invite input from the quieter folks and change up the pace. Breakout groups during a strategic planning session can keep engagement high and let you gather diverse perspectives. 

5. Encouraging Participation 

  • Strategies for Inclusivity: Ensure that all participants have the opportunity to speak. This may involve asking for input from quieter members or using round-robin techniques where everyone shares their thoughts. For instance, during a brainstorming session, prompt each participant to contribute one idea before anyone shares a second. 
  • Handling Discussions and Conflicts: Disagreement is natural, but conflict can shut things down fast. As the facilitator, stay neutral and focus on the meeting's goals. Acknowledge those differing viewpoints with respect. Can you find common ground between ideas? Maybe a hybrid solution? Guide your team towards collaboration, not competition. 

6. Concluding the Meeting 

  • Summarizing Key Points: End the meeting by summarizing the main decisions, action items, and next steps. It reinforces clarity and ensures that everyone leaves with a shared understanding. For example, conclude a project planning meeting by recapping agreed-upon milestones and assigned tasks. 
  • Action Items and Responsibilities: Crystallize those action items by assigning them to specific people with defined deadlines. This accountability keeps everyone focused on moving the needle forward and ensures those great ideas from the meeting translate into real-world progress. 

7. Follow-up After the Meeting 

  • Distributing Minutes: Distribute a meeting summary to all attendees (and participants who couldn't make it) while the meeting's details are still fresh in everyone's minds. This document serves as a record of the discussion, decisions made, and action items assigned. Distribute the minutes within 24 hours to keep the momentum going. 
  • Tracking Action Items: We've all been in those meetings where actions get assigned, but then they just...disappear into the void. Avoid that by using project management tools or a simple checklist to monitor progress on those action items. That way, you can ensure tasks are getting done on time and address any roadblocks promptly. 
  • Gathering Feedback for Improvement: After each session, send out a quick survey or just have informal chats to get people's honest feedback on what worked well and what could be improved. Getting that perspective from the participants themselves is invaluable for refining your approach and making future meetings even more engaging and effective. 
Run successful meetings

How to Run Effective Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings eliminate geographical barriers and offer flexibility, but they introduce new challenges, such as technological dependencies, the potential for reduced participant engagement, and the nuances of digital communication.  

Unlike in-person gatherings, where the shared physical space naturally facilitates interaction and attentiveness, virtual meetings require deliberate strategies to capture and maintain participants' attention and ensure clear communication. If you're exploring ways to run virtual or hybrid meetings, it's important to recognize that while many fundamental steps are shared across both formats, the former requires specific adjustments to address their distinct challenges. 

Unique Considerations for Virtual Meetings 

  • Choosing the Right Technology: With virtual meetings now a mainstay, finding the right platform is critical. This is no small decision—the global video conferencing market is projected to reach $19.73 billion by 2030! Ensuring everyone on your team understands how to use the chosen tool is vital for a successful virtual meeting. 
  • Setting Ground Rules for Participation: Establishing clear guidelines for video usage, microphone etiquette, and how to signal a desire to speak is important for maintaining order and ensuring a productive meeting environment in a virtual setting. 
  • Enhancing Engagement and Interaction: Technology is crucial to creating interactive and engaging experiences. It can include integrating multimedia presentations, conducting live polls, facilitating small group discussions in breakout rooms, or using meeting management software to drive engagement and track meeting progress. 

Meeting Best Practices for All Types of Meetings

To make meetings productive and purposeful, regardless of whether they occur online or in person, consider these effective meeting strategies: 

  • Purpose and Agenda: Clearly outline the meeting's objectives in the agenda and share this structured document with attendees in advance. This ensures everyone arrives prepared and focused on achieving the desired outcomes. 
  • Prepared Participants: Encourage attendees to engage by reviewing pre-meeting materials, familiarizing themselves with the agenda, and coming ready to contribute their ideas and expertise. 
  • Effective Facilitation: Designate a facilitator to guide conversations, ensure participation from all attendees, and manage time effectively. The facilitator should also be prepared to handle any technical difficulties, particularly in online meetings. 
  • Respectful Environment: Establish ground rules for open communication, active listening, and respect for diverse viewpoints. This fosters a collaborative atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas. Consider incorporating a quick icebreaker activity at the beginning of the meeting, especially for online meetings or groups that don't know each other well. Meeting icebreakers can help people feel more relaxed and comfortable while participating in the discussion. 
  • Tech check: Address potential technical issues beforehand, particularly for virtual or hybrid meetings. Test equipment functionality, ensure everyone has access to necessary software, and have a backup plan in case of glitches. 
  • Visual Aids: Visuals are powerful tools that can enhance your presentations. Don't rely solely on words to explain your ideas—add visual aids to create more engaging and informative presentations. Consider using presentations, shared screens, or virtual whiteboards to illustrate your points and make them easier for everyone to understand. 
  • Encourage Participation: Proactively invite ideas and questions from all attendees. Use features like "raise hand" or chat functions in hybrid or online meetings, and allocate speaking time fairly. 
  • Manage Time: Punctuality is key! Respect everyone's time by starting and ending the meeting on schedule. Stick to the agenda as much as possible. If discussions stray from the planned topics, gently redirect the conversation back to the agenda. Briefly acknowledge the interesting tangent, but emphasize the need to stay focused to ensure everything gets covered. If the off-topic point has merit, offer to discuss it during a follow-up meeting or conversation. 
  • Breaks: Include short breaks for longer meetings (ideally every 60-90 minutes) to sustain energy levels and allow participants to recharge. Encourage attendees to get up, move around, stretch, grab a healthy snack, or step outside for some fresh air. 
  • Clear Action Items: At the end of the meeting, summarize the decisions made and action items. Assign clear ownership for each action item and specific deadlines for completion. 
  • Follow-up: Distribute meeting minutes that capture key decisions, action items, and next steps. Track progress on action items and follow up with those responsible as needed. This documented record ensures everyone is on the same page moving forward. Use project management tools or team communication platforms to track progress on those action items. Following up with those responsible keeps the momentum going and holds everyone accountable. 


1. How do you run a meeting effectively? 

To run effective meetings, start with a clear purpose and pre-circulated agenda so everyone’s prepared. Designate a facilitator to guide the conversation and ensure everyone has a chance to contribute. Manage time wisely—stick to the agenda and end on time. Visuals like screen sharing can boost engagement. Above all, focus on clear outcomes: summarize decisions, assign specific action items to individuals, and follow up afterward with meeting minutes that capture these key action points. 

2. What are the 5 P's of running an effective meeting?

The 5 P's of running an effective meeting are: 

  • Purpose: Define a clear objective for the meeting. What problem needs to be solved, what decision needs to be made, and what information needs to be shared? 
  • Participants: Carefully select the right attendees, essential for their input, knowledge, or decision-making authority. Too many people can derail the meeting. 
  • Process: Plan the flow of the meeting. Structure it through a pre-circulated agenda with discussion points and time allocations. 
  • Preparation: Ensure everyone comes prepared. Provide any relevant materials or information ahead of time. 
  • Payoff: End the meeting with clear next steps, assigned action items with owners and deadlines, and a shared understanding of decisions made. 

3. What is the 80/20 rule in meetings?

The 80/20 rule in meetings (sometimes called the Pareto Principle) suggests that 80% of a meeting's outcomes or value comes from 20% of the time spent or topics discussed. This highlights how much time is often wasted on less-important matters. 

Internal meeting

Parting Thoughts

In conclusion, running effective meetings is critical. Focusing on clear objectives, careful preparation, and active facilitation can transform meetings from time-wasting events into powerful tools for decision-making, problem-solving, and team building.  

When you get it right, meetings transform from dreaded time-wasters into powerhouses for team progress. An intentional approach that prioritizes inclusivity, technology, and action will ensure your meetings are efficient AND effective—engaging sessions that keep driving your team forward. Mastering this skill takes practice, but it pays dividends in productivity and team collaboration.



John Hunter

John Hunter

John is the Senior Manager of Event Cloud Content Marketing at Cvent. He has 11 years of experience writing about the meetings and events industry. John also has extensive copywriting experience across diverse industries, including broadcast television, retail advertising, associations, higher education, and corporate PR.

Top 10 Meeting & Event Industry Trends for 2024
Top Meeting & Event Trends for 2024
See the 10 key trends shaping meetings and events

Subscribe to our newsletter