5 Easy Steps for Planning a Meeting with Free Checklist

5 Easy Steps for Planning a Meeting with Free Checklist

Last Updated on by Milton Campbell

Have you ever been in a meeting that seemed to drag on forever and when it was done you feel like you got very little useful information? If you have been in any supervisory or any other position that regularly attends meetings, this has probably happened to you. This can be very frustrating for all involved.

Are you the one running the meetings like this? When you’re the meeting owner, do people leave feeling like it was a good use of their time? Was it productive and effective, or was it a poor use of their time? If the answer is the latter or you don’t know, don’t worry this article will provide you the tips on planning a meeting that’s effective.

It all starts with the planning stage. The strategic planning process is almost as important as what you do in the meeting itself. Many people fail to plan because they believe it takes a long time to do. This planning process doesn’t need to take an excessive amount of time. It should take less than 20 minutes to build your plan unless research needs to be done. This includes writing out your plan on something like the meeting checklist template below.

Table of Contents

Steps for Planning a Meeting

  1. Determine the Goal of the Meeting
  2. Think About the Relevant Topics
  3. Who Needs to be There
  4. Find a Good Place
  5. Send Out Invites and Agenda
Image of people around a table in a meeting for steps for planning a meeting section.

1. Determine the Goal of the Meeting

Take the time to prepare first. What is the goal of your meeting? Have a strategic plan. At this stage don’t focus on how you are going to do it. Instead, focus on what you want the outcome to be. For example, do you want everyone attending the meeting to be informed on a new process that has come up or do you want the group to brainstorm a solution to the problem? If you have trouble determining the goal of the meeting, your next question should be, is this meeting really necessary?

Once you determine your goal, it will lead you to how the meeting will be held or the flow of the meeting. For example, if your goal was to inform your team of a new policy, the meeting will be more of a briefing with a questions and answers section at the end. If your goal was to solve a problem, your meeting will likely be more of a group discussion and brainstorming session. Realizing your goals is the first step in preparing for a meeting because it will guide everything else.

2. Think About the Relevant Topics

The topics will be based on your goals. Each topic should get you closer and help you accomplish your goals. Your first topic should of course be to explain the objective or the meeting purpose and the ground rules of the meeting. The next topics should be geared toward your meeting goal. For example, if your goal is to inform on a new policy, your topics may look something like this: What is the new policy, when this policy will go into effect, how does this new policy affect the employees, and questions and answers. The topics are a general guide and outline of how the meeting will go.

3. Who Needs to be There

Based on your goal and topics, who needs to be at the meeting? This list should be kept to a minimum but everyone that needs to be there should be there. If you have too many people that don’t need to be there, you are just wasting their time and it could hurt the interaction in the meeting. If you don’t have people that have buy-in or information on the topics, you may miss out on ideas or getting the information to the right people. Getting the right mix of people can help you reach your goal of the meeting.

4. Find a Good Place

Having the right location can many times make or break the success of a meeting. You should try to find a location that is convenient to the majority of the attendees within your building or office space. This way people are not spending too much of their precious time traveling. More importantly, than location is finding a place with adequate seating, lighting, and acoustics. Making everyone as comfortable as possible will help with participation and productivity of the meeting. This can be especially true in larger groups. Make sure the space can accommodate the group.

Also, it may be a good idea to determine if this should be a virtual meeting held through video conference. This can be especially true for remote teams.

5. Send Out Invites and Agenda

Now that you have your topics, key participants, and location, the final step is sending out invites with an agenda or overview of what will be discussed. An agenda or overview is important so attendees can start thinking about the topics before the meeting starts. Also, this will give each member time to formulate any questions or talking points beforehand. Try to only invite necessary employees to not waste others’ time.

How to Create a Meeting Agenda

Before you even start thinking about your agenda, you need to understand the goals of the meeting. Why are you having a meeting? What are you hoping to accomplish? And why is it necessary to bring people together in person, or on a conference call, instead of sending an email, memo, or text message?

Once you’ve identified all those elements, you can start planning how you’re going to get from Point A (the current situation) to Point B (the desired outcome).

A meeting agenda serves two functions: It gets everyone on the same page about what’s being discussed at the meeting and it helps keep the discussion on track.

Here are some best practices for creating a meeting agenda:

Outline your goals for each agenda item. This will be a bulleted list of specific outcomes that come out of each agenda topic. For example, if you’re discussing a new web design project at your marketing team meeting, one bullet point might be “The team will choose two vendors.”
List everything that needs to be discussed. This includes both topics and decisions that need to be made. Be specific so everyone knows exactly what they’re responsible for, and what they’re not responsible for. Make sure every topic is relevant and important enough to warrant taking up everyone’s time.

Planning a Meeting Checklist Template

Download and use the checklist below to plan your perfect meeting.

Tips for Conducting an Effective Meeting

Image of four people fist bumping after successful meeting for tips for conducting an effective meeting section.

Once the meeting starts there are some goals and strategies you should follow to make sure the meeting is as effective as possible.

Start on Time

Many times people show up early for meetings and there’s nothing worse than showing up early only to have the meeting not start on time. Starting late can put everyone in a bad state of mind before the meeting even starts. Show everyone that you value their time by starting on time.

End on Time

Just like starting on time, it is important to end on time. Even if you are having a great discussion that is going longer than expected, try to end it within the time that was scheduled. This will make it easier for the people attending the meeting to schedule their day around the meeting. It can be very frustrating for the attendees to have a meeting making them late for other engagements.

Ban Unnecessary Technology

Cell phones and other technology can be very distracting. Limit users from bringing their personal electronic devices to any formal meeting or at least have them put them on silent during the meeting. This will at least make the cell phones less distracting to other members. If you do ban these devices it should be stated when you send out the invites and agenda. Then reiterated when you start the meeting.

Make the Objective Clear to Everybody

Everyone needs to know the objective. Preferably they should know the objective before the meeting starts. This is why it’s a great idea to send out an agenda beforehand. The objective should be made clear again at the beginning of the meeting. You may have to reinforce the objective throughout the meeting to remind everyone why they are there.

Keep it as Brief as Possible

Time is money and pointless meetings are a waste of both time and money. Try to keep the meetings as brief as possible. The longer meetings drag out, the more people’s minds start to drift off onto something else.

Stay on Topic

A derailed meeting can ruin all the hard work put into it. Try to keep your meetings on the topic. Don’t stray too far from the core elements of the meeting. This will help you keep the meeting brief and maximize the use of everybody’s time, ensuring all agenda items are covered.

Seek Participation from Others

Try to keep employees engaged. Seeking participation from others will help keep members focused. Even if you are just trying to pass on information to the attendees, you can keep participation up by seeking acknowledgment from everyone. A lot can come out of team discussions over just one person talking.

End With a Plan

This is especially useful in situations where you are trying to solve a problem. You want to end the meeting with a good direction of where to next. Assign tasks if there are specific taskings for employees. This will help members feel like the meeting was a success. When they leave with a plan they will likely begin looking for ways to start implementing it immediately.

Follow Up

After the meeting is over it’s important to follow up with everybody. This means you can shoot out an email giving an overview of everything you all went over. If you had any questions that couldn’t be answered in the meeting, give the answers to those questions. Any action items that came out of the meeting should also be reiterated. The follow-up action should be used to keep the information fresh in everybody’s mind.

Digital Meeting Services

Image of two people reaching through a computer shaking hands for digital meeting services section.

In the digital age we live in, there are many great digital services to have virtual meetings with. This type of meeting can be great for groups that are spread out or offices that have many people who telework. Many different services offer great platforms to have your virtual meetings like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for Business just to name a few.

Follow the link to learn how to set up a Zoom meeting.

Wrapping it Up

Meetings are a great way to get everybody together and exchange information and provide guidance. They can’t be completely eliminated from most work areas but they can be done in a way that makes them productive and efficient. I hope these tips helped you set up a great meeting.

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Milton Campbell

I'm passionate about personal and professional development. I started Growth Tactics to not only share the knowledge I've gained as a manager and leader but also improve my skills. My vision is to help people be the best versions of themselves. Let's grow together.