Ten Tips for Successful Meetings

November 29, 2021 |
3 minute read

On November 9, 2021, Commonfund Institute held its first virtual Investment Stewardship Academy session since the program began nearly 30 years ago. The course focused on committee decision-making and group dynamics and was led by Dr. Steven Rogelberg, a highly decorated and award-winning researcher, author, speaker, and professor. The live session was framed by strategies and insights from his best-selling book, The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance.

Dr. Rogelberg shared 10 tips for conducting a successful and effective meeting and stressed that the planning leading up to a meeting is just as important as the content discussed during it. He broke up these 10 tips into three sections: pre-meeting, mid-meeting and post-meeting. Below we share his approach for meeting success. 

Four pre-meeting strategies you should think about employing:

1. Having larger meetings does not boost effectiveness and inclusion. 

Meetings that are large in participant size are associated with poor evaluations of quality and social loafing (one engages less or puts in less effort when judged as a group). Meetings that are effectively sized and run increase overall job engagement which improves overall productivity. Teams should have candid conversations about meanings that create a shared understanding of who is appropriate to invite and when not to invite someone. Leverage the meeting agenda to time entry and exit.

2. Compelling agenda

Meetings are shared events, so ask for input from attendees on how they would like the meeting to be structured or if they have any topics they would like to add to the agenda. One innovative technique to employ is to organize the agenda as a set of questions to be answered. Formulating agenda topics as questions gives meeting leaders a better sense of who needs to be at a meeting and it helps with ending meetings on time. If you cannot think of questions, then you probably do not need a meeting! When the questions are answered you can consider the meeting a success. 

3. Set proper meeting times 

In preparation for a meeting, it is important to set the meeting time properly. According to Parkinson’s Law1 “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” therefore refrain from scheduling meetings longer than an hour or the time necessary to complete them.1 

4. Video fatigue 

When planning the timing of a meeting, incorporate some breaks or hold part of the meeting standing up in order to fight video fatigue. Another way to reduce video fatigue is to turn your self-view off, as studies have shown it to be mentally taxing. Another tip to remember is the use of video during a meeting increases engagement and decreases multitasking that can distract attendees.

Four strategies to implement during your meetings: 

1. Start the meeting well as it sets the stage for inclusion

As a meeting leader/facilitator, your mood matters. The mood the meeting leader sets at the start of the meeting sets the tone and has a contagious effect on meeting attendees. It is important for meeting leaders to begin meetings with energy, appreciation, and gratitude, especially during these challenging times. Following this strategy also increases the chances of more positive meeting mood state by promoting participation, creativity, and effectiveness.

2. Establish meeting norms about creating inclusive meetings

It is important for teams to periodically create mutual expectations of what constitutes an optimal and inclusive meeting experience. Normalize talking about meeting effectiveness and decide as a group what makes them optimal. 

3. Active facilitation

Active facilitation is key to promoting an inclusive meeting. Meeting leaders should always remember to embrace the role of meeting facilitator. It is important for the meeting leader to draw in attendees and to ensure that they are engaged and included. Generically asking for comments does not serve as an effective tool for active facilitation. Part of active facilitation is also kindly interrupting attendees who wander off topic and/or refuse to digress. It is important for meeting leaders to take this initiative as this is an expectation for other meeting attendees and thus allows everyone to engage. Last, but not least, meeting leaders facilitating large virtual meetings should encourage the use of chat. This function allows more voices to enter the conversation at hand.

4. Silence at meeting (sometimes) 

Research supports the benefits of silence during meetings to generate ideas, perspectives, and insights from attendees. For example, silent brainstorming using a shared document yields twice the ideas and also generates more creative ideas from meeting attendees. It provides everyone a chance to contribute without their perspective or opinion being altered by what others are saying. 

Two things to do after you meet: 

1. End on time 

The manner in which you conclude a meeting is key to how participants will remember and retain the information discussed. With this in mind, it is important to end meetings on time. Research has shown that ending a meeting late is a tremendous source of stress for attendees and as a meeting leader you want participants to associate meetings with feelings of preparation and anticipation as opposed to anxiety. 

2. End meetings well 

With a few minutes left, it is important for meeting leaders to be sure to clarify key takeaways for the meeting attendees. Inclusion means little if what was decided by the collective does not get acted upon. A concrete strategy to ensure execution once a meeting has concluded is to identify the directly responsible individuals (DRIs) for tasks and goals discussed in the meeting. It is imperative that nobody in your meeting leaves wondering what was accomplished and next steps. 

We hope you take these 10 tips into consideration as you plan your meetings, whether they be virtual, hybrid or in person. Dr. Rogelberg’s full session, The Surprising Science of Meetings: Committee Decision-Making and Group Dynamics, along with other Investment Stewardship Academy content, will be available in Commonfund Institute’s new online learning management system – Commonfund Institute Online – in December 2021. Visit our Investment Stewardship Academy page for more information


1Parkinson’s Law 

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