How to Run a Meeting

My fundamental meeting philosophy:

Any meeting worth having is a meeting worth planning, recording, and sharing.

There are several ways to organize and run meetings but I find the following two items critical:

  1. Distribute an agenda to each attendee at least 24 hours in advance.
  2. Assign someone to take notes at the meeting. Publish them shortly afterwards.

Meeting Agenda in Advance

An advanced meeting agenda is the most important thing you can do for an effective meeting.

I’ve made the mistake of holding meetings (or going to meetings) where there was no agenda at all. You’re better off grabbing lunch together because at least then you’ll have the positive result of a full stomach. No agenda meetings are almost never worth the time.

Significantly better but still lacking are meetings where the organizer shows up with the agenda, but it’s the first time anyone has seen it. These meetings can be useful. However, a serious disadvantage exists – people thinking about the agenda items moments before they speak are not likely to speak as intelligently as they could have with advanced notice. These kind of meetings can easily degenerate into giant brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming in a group is rarely the best way to generate ideas.

You will usually have a great meeting if the agenda is posted well in advance. This does more than keep a meeting on track. It results in significantly better discussion and decision making. It also solves the ineffectual brainstorming banter problem because people generally present their best ideas.

Think about it. Would you rather talk to a lawyer that’s just spitballing at $400/hr or one that’s reviewed your documents in advance and shows up prepared?

By the way, if you’re a meeting attendee, it’s your responsibility to review the agenda in advance and put some effort into preparing.

Taking & Publishing Notes

This is more than just making sure attendees remember what was discussed. That’s important but there’s another big reason: facilitating better communication within your company. In other words, people that didn’t attend the meeting, will have a chance to learn what went on. (This, by the way, has the nice side benefit of allowing you to reduce the number of people at a meeting and therefore increase its usefulness.)

For example, every other week I hold a meeting with my top managers. The meeting may be a status, planning, and/or decision making meeting. The objective varies, but we always publish the notes for the entire company to read. Not everyone will read these notes and that’s okay. But those who do will have a deeper insight into how the company is being run and why/how decisions are being made.

I also ask that notes be taken and published for store manager meetings and the monthly meetings all people in a given store hold. Why? Two reasons:

  1. It allow other managers/store employees to see what other people are doing.
  2. I get a better insight into what’s going on within the company.

Managing a company with multiple locations has a lot of challenges but the biggest one is communication. This helps tremendously in that effort.

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