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How to make your meetings more productive, have fewer of them and cut the time by 27%.

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

GTD Steps: Clarify and Engage

If you work in a corporation, you probably attend a lot of meetings. You've been in well run productive meetings and you've been in meetings you probably wish you hadn't attended. There are lots of reasons some meetings are more productive than others; the topic, participants, engagement, skill of the person leading the meeting, time of day, etc.

Running effective meetings is a skill that can be developed. It's important not only because it helps you be more effective, but also because every time you run a meeting, your abilities are on display for everyone who attends. How you handle meetings influences whether people view you as well organized and effective or unprepared and disorganized.

Preparing well for meetings is the most important thing you can do to make them effective. When you're well prepared you feel confident playing the leader. The discussion is focused and moves towards accomplishing the objectives. People are more engaged because they understand why the meeting is important to them. Your meetings are shorter because you get more done in less time and you need fewer meetings because you accomplish what is needed the first time. That in turn leaves more time for getting other things done. [Schedule meetings using the Meeting Stacking strategy]

The 4 steps to planning productive meetings

There are a few specific things you need to consider for every meeting you plan. If you follow them, you'll be well prepared, feel more confident, and have more productive and efficient meetings.

As you prepare for each meeting, consider the items below and write down your thoughts. Not only does writing them down give you notes to use for the meeting, it also helps you clarify them in your own mind.

1. Determine the meeting objectives - what actions do you want participants to take?

Defining what you want to accomplish as a result of the meeting gives you a clear target to work towards. If you don't define clear objectives for the meeting, the discussion won't be focused and you won't make nearly as much progress.

It's important to think of the objectives in terms of what you want others to do. Some actions you want them to take during the meeting; for example provide input, give approval, or commit to decisions. Other actions you want them to take after the meeting.

2. Create a meeting roadmap - what are the specific steps you will take in the meeting to achieve the objectives?

Once you clearly define the meeting objectives in terms of what actions you want others to take, your primary focus is to plan your meeting to achieve those objectives. You do this by creating a roadmap.

For example, if your objective is to get participants to agree to support a particular solution to an issue, your action plan might look something like this:

  • Review the background and context of the issue

  • Present my approach for addressing the issue

  • Ask for feedback and input on the approach

  • Ask participants if they will support the approach (or modified approach based on feedback)

Thinking of an agenda as a roadmap to achieving your objectives gives it focus. If an agenda item does not directly help to achieve your objectives, it's usually best to leave it off.

3. Identify next steps - who needs to take the next actions and what specific actions will they take?

While you are planning a meeting is the best time to think about the next steps. If the meeting goes as planned, what will be right next actions to take afterwards?

Figuring out the next steps ahead of time allows you to think through them carefully. If you wait until you're in the meeting to think about the next steps, you're more likely to forget something or to assign a next step that isn't really needed.

Of course, meetings don't always go as planned, but if you are well prepared and have a good roadmap, in most cases they will.

4. Prepare materials - what materials will help you accomplish the meeting objectives?

Now that your meeting is planned, it's time to think about what materials would help you accomplish your objectives. Is there a chart, document, or slide that would help participants understand a key point? Would a project progress slide help them see where a project is headed and how the actions you ask them to take help get them there?

Don't use materials just for the sake of having materials. Only use them if they will help you accomplish your objectives. Otherwise they may just be a distraction.

Quick Tip - to increase engagement in your meetings think about each of the above steps from the perspective of meeting participants. How will they benefit from this meeting? Will it help them or their team somehow? Will it help the overall organization be more successful? Try to call these things out. Just going through the exercise of thinking about things from the participants' perspective will help you communicate more effectively with them.

Why to use a template for planning meetings

Using a template makes preparing for meetings quicker and easier. It reminds you of each of the key steps and provides a place to write down your plans. You don't waste time thinking about how to prepare, just open the template, fill it out and you'll have clear objectives, a meeting roadmap, a list of next steps, and a list of any materials to prepare.

A meeting planning template can be simple. It just needs to include the key steps for preparing and provide a place to enter your thoughts. Check out the Get2Done Meeting Planning Template.


Every minute you spend planning a meeting will save you two in the future. Using a template will make the planning process quick and easy.

When you plan meetings effectively you lead them with more confidence. Your discussions are focused so you get more done in less time and need fewer meetings. Participants have more confidence in your leadership and are more likely to support your proposals and assignments. Everything you do that depends on other people gets easier.

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