Step-by-step plan for holding a professional meeting

About how you prepare a meeting properly, what you should pay attention to and what you can do as chairperson to lead an effective meeting.

1. Draw up a clear agenda

In order to be able to make an agenda, you should first determine the aim of the meeting. For example, it may be about gathering information, forming an opinion, decision-making, a brainstorm or finding a solution to an issue. Put the most important agenda items first and end with ‘any other business’ (subjects that need to be discussed after all the items on the agenda have been discussed). Is the meeting part of a series? In that case, it will often begin with the minutes or the agreements that were made in the previous meeting.

The chairperson will always begin the meeting by asking if everyone agrees with the agenda. Items can be added to the agenda at this time or the order can be changed. Prior to or at the beginning of the meeting, the person who is going to take the minutes is agreed. The minute taker can immediately use the agenda as structure for the minutes.

2. Determine the date, time, location and duration

When you send out the invitation to the meeting you should specify the date, time, duration and location of the meeting. It is important that the chairperson strictly monitors the duration of the meeting in order to prevent overruns. By adding up the time required for each agenda item, you can realistically estimate the duration.

When arranging the meeting location, you should take into account: accessibility for the participants, sufficient chairs, tables, presentation tools, catering, etc. In addition, it is important that the chairperson sits at a central spot, where everyone can see their face.

3. Determine who will attend the meeting

Invite the people who need to attend the meeting. It is smart to only invite the people who are involved with the topic and/or those people who have decision-making power. The people who are invited is also dependent on the aim of the meeting / the type of meeting. You should keep the group as small as possible preferably in order to prevent undesirable interference / lack of interest.

4. Send the invitation and agenda

Send the invitation to the meeting and the agenda to the participants well in advance. This will ensure that everyone can prepare properly. Specify the date, time and location in the invitation. In addition, you always explain the nature of the meeting. Attach the agenda as a document. Check whether everyone has the agenda in front of them at the start of the meeting.

5. Prepare the meeting room

Get the meeting room ready before starting. Take the time to determine the layout, set up the chairs and tables, switch on the presentation tools and arrange any catering. If the size of a table does not match the number of participants, make the layout smaller or sit closer to each other. Ensure that you can begin the meeting at the starting time.

6. The chairperson opens the meeting

The chairperson states the aim of the meeting. The chairperson asks for agreement on the agenda and if there are any special details. If someone has to leave early, this is the time to communicate that. The chairperson states or agrees who will be taking the minutes. The participants may be asked to switch off their mobile phones or alternative agreements may be made.

7. The chairperson leads the meeting

The chairperson takes an active approach. The chairperson gives the floor to people and ensures that everyone is given the opportunity to participate. In addition, the chairperson ensures that everyone listens to each other. At the end of each agenda item, the chairperson summarises what was said and the corresponding conclusions. The chairperson checks with the attendees if they agree. This is also a way to keep everyone involved and to underline that the agreements and decisions are a joint effort. It is important to keep discussions clear, focus clearly on the problem and work towards to solutions. In this way, a chairperson creates an overview for all participants and it also helps the minute taker.

The chairperson monitors the agenda, for example by cutting discussions short and summarising them in a timely fashion. They keep a close eye on the time and on body language: if the item to be discussed is not capturing anybody’s interest (they are leaning back, looking around, staring into space), it is good to check whether this item can be dealt with quickly.

8. The chairperson asks if there is any other business

The chairperson ends the meeting with any other business, which lasts about five to seven minutes. If there is not a (brief) answer to a question straight away, this can be included as agenda item for the next meeting.

9. The minute taker immediately writes up the minutes

Make sure that the participants receive the minutes within a couple of days. This includes the agreements and the tasks. You can use these minutes as starting point for the next meeting.