Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Workplace Culture Experts & Barefoot Wine Founders

5 Strategies for More Effective Meetings

5 Strategies for More Effective Meetings 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

As we approach the new fiscal year, you can bet there are a lot of meetings in your near future. But the question remains, “Are those meetings necessary and effective?” If the answer is “no,” you’re about to spend a lot of effort, money, and time taking people away from their work so they can socialize and entertain one another—on your dime!

Think we’re exaggerating? Add up every attendee’s hourly rate. Multiple that by the length of each meeting. Next, add in prep costs, and you get a very costly proposition. Yes, some meetings are necessary. They can be useful to ensure everyone’s on the same page. And many meetings are unavoidable, especially when stakeholder buy-ins are involved.

We’ve held and attended thousands of meetings over the years. We paid for most of them, so we were sincerely interested in keeping these meetings effective, short, and action-oriented. Watching meetings digress and degenerate taught us many different lessons. We learned meeting best practices firsthand from colleagues and our own hard knocks.

Here’s our simple list that’ll help you how to get the most out of the shortest and fewest meetings possible.


If you’re running the meeting, make sure to create an agenda in advance. Make sure each talking point has a time limit. Be wary of attendees who try to discuss items that aren’t on your agenda. Kindly recommend a separate conversation about their issue and then get back on topic. Don’t forget that the point of your meeting is discussion, education, and making decisions. Keep the conversations on track.


Make sure you establish ground rules right from the start of your meeting. Identify the meeting’s goals, what you expect to accomplish, the decisions you expect to make, which member(s) will head the meeting, and last but not least, how long the meeting will be. Your purpose needs to be communicated in all related correspondence, and it should be in the final statement of the actual meeting itself.


The most effective meetings are action-focused. This action must be completed by a certain date. Make sure everyone at the meeting can see the same calendar, so all lead times and deadlines are visible. The best attendees take notes right on their own calendars because they know they’ll need to block out some time to make an appointment with themselves and assess their responsibility. Calendars are an excellent way to get meeting members to focus on your agenda—you can also ask them to commit to a date to talk about their off-agenda topics.


Choose someone to take notes and keep track of time. Instruct them to interrupt the meeting to remind everyone how much time is left and how they’re doing so far. For example, in a one-hour meeting, we think it’s smart to let everyone know when there are 15 minutes left. This helps teammates think about decisions, deadlines, and action plans. Simply put—it’s time to wrap things up! Right after the meeting, the scribe organizes the notes, assignees, action items, and deadlines, and sends them to each attendee.

Action Items

During the final few minutes of a one-hour meeting, ask the scribe to go over the action items, their assignees, and deadlines. Once each assignee hears their corresponding action item being read aloud, they’ll be more likely to complete those items on time. Keep an eye on progress moving forward through an online platform that can be used to update status, educate others, and collect feedback and input from each attendee.

Another, simpler money and time-saving method is to simply have fewer meetings. Look for common culprits that occur throughout many of your meetings. Try to have a meeting only for the action-oriented tasks explained above. It’s too costly to have meetings out of habit. Keep your team focused on being productive. Don’t give them room to complain, “Oh no! Not another meeting!”

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