April 16, 2018

Five essential steps that result in effective meetings

John Shorb of The Delphi Group Inc. can be contacted at

The Association for Consulting Expertise (ACE) is a non-profit association of independent consultants who value "Success through Collaboration." The public is welcome to attend its regular meetings to share best practices and engage with industry experts. For more information go to

Q: Why are meetings not resulting in decisions and follow-through actions despite having clear agendas?

ACE Advises: There are several important keys to effective meetings.

  • Each agenda item should include the objective or intended outcome and clarity as to whether the intent is to reach consensus or just seek input. An agenda that is just a list of topics and time allotment is in the category of 'necessary but not sufficient.' Completing agenda discussions in the allotted time should not be the definition of an effective meeting. Discussing the right things and achieving intended outcomes is more useful.
  • Provide meeting participants with information ahead of time so they are prepared to discuss agenda topics.
  • Meeting leaders and those leading topic discussions should have well-developed facilitation skills so they can plan the best process for discussions. There are numerous training options in this area, if needed.
  • Before concluding every meeting there should be a review of what has been decided and individual follow-through responsibilities. This is best done by asking open-ended questions of participants, like "What have we decided?" or "What are each of you taking away as a follow-through action?" Never end a meeting by asking, "Is everyone clear about what we've just decided?" Nodding heads as people look at their watches and run for the door should not be taken as an indication of understanding or commitment.
  • Groups that meet regularly — such as natural work teams or project teams — should occasionally stand back and self-critique their meeting processes: What's working, what's not working, what should be changed.

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