Jan 20, 2012

10 Steps to Get People to Attend Your Meetings

Our days are full of meetings.  There are meetings, and meetings about the meeting, and meetings about having a meeting.  How many times have you left a meeting and thought to yourself, "What a waste of time that was!  I could have stayed at my desk and worked on ______."  How many times have you received a meeting invitation and dreaded having to click on 'Accept'?  Too many to count?  Well now that it is your turn to host meetings, it is important to know how to change that dreaded cycle.

The following 10 steps are often used by members of the C-Suite for whom time is a precious commodity.  Here's your sneak peak at how it works:  
  1. Be clear about why you are holding the meeting.  What information do you want the attendees to walk away with? Is the purpose of the meeting to identify issues?  Identify needs? Provide a status update?  Inform the team about changes?  
  2. Invite the right people.  Time is precious.  If people are either declining your meeting invitations or not showing up at all, it may be because they do not see the value in attending.  Does that particular Manager, Director or Vice President really need to be on the invitation list?  
  3. Set an agenda.  Attaching it to the meeting invitation is invaluable.  Outline the discussion items, and the person responsible for each item.  Give a time-slot of 5 or 10 minutes (i.e., 2:10 - 2:20) so they can determine what important discussion points they need to cover. 
  4. Distribute the agenda ahead of time.  No one likes to be caught off guard or put on the spot during a meeting.  Participants can see what they are responsible for and what resources or information they need to get prepared.   
  5. Start and end the meeting on time.   Waiting until all of the attendees join the meeting may be the "nice" thing to do.  However, you are actually penalizing those who showed up on time, and rewarding those who arrived late.  If you develop a reputation of starting your meetings late, people will to show up late.   Start on time.  
  6. Designate someone to capture action items.  If you are the meeting host, it will be challenging for you to effectively run the meeting and take notes for follow-up action items.  Ask one of the participants to volunteer.  
  7. Invite participation.  You should not be the only person talking.  Ask participants if they have any questions or comments.  Most people have something to contribute -- even the quiet ones.  
  8. Acknowledge, table, and redirect.  It is inevitable that the discussion will go off topic, or segue into a larger issue.  If it does not have a bearing or impact on the meeting topic, acknowledge it as an issue, table it for later/another meeting, and redirect the discussion back to the meeting topic.  
  9. Set the date/time for the next meeting.
  10. Circulate the list of action items. (Hint:  This is an agenda topic for the next meeting!)

Running effective and productive meetings is a key management skill well worth developing.   These steps will increase attendance, and earn you the reputation of using other people's time productively.   Not a bad reputation to have.


  1. Great post. Meetings are a necessity. Your ideas can take them away from being a necessary evil. I need to be more structured in my meetings, even one on one, online meetings. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Excellent post! As a person in a leadership position that has to attend and host meetings, this information is very valuable. I'll be implementing it VERY soon. Thank you for the insight.

  3. A friend of mine and I are planning a Lunch and Learn for February. I found a few helpful tips in this article that I am going to apply. Thank you

  4. An excellent outline of the 10 steps.Loved the photo, a great illustration.I could relate to each point.Great advice.

  5. Mallie, this is especially helpful in one-on-one meetings, where the discussion can either stray or be considered one-sided.

  6. Glad you found the information helpful. Once you've implemented the steps, please come back and share your experience.

  7. Thanks Joel. I am glad you found it helpful and that you like the picture. I think it accurately represents what some meeting participants feel, but are unable to show.

  8. Dawn, these tips will help for both you planning meeting and your Lunch-and-Learn. Please come back and share your experience.

  9. Absolutely essential to respect busy people's time and ensure effective meetings, thanks for sharing!


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