Step-by-step plan organise a professional meeting

This step-by-step plan explains how to organise a meeting properly and what you need to do to chair an effective meeting.

1. Draw up an unambiguous agenda

In order to draw up a clear agenda, it is first necessary to determine what the purpose of the discussion is. Is it an informative meeting, a meeting to form an opinion, or a meeting at which decisions will be taken? For instance, is it about jointly developing creative solutions for a problem? A meeting often opens with the minutes or what was agreed at the last meeting. Put the most important points for discussion first and end with any other business.

The chair opens the meeting by asking those present whether everyone is in agreement with the agenda. Otherwise points can be added or the order of the items can be modified. Each topic then comes up for discussion in the order of the agenda. An agreement is always made at the start of the meeting on who takes minutes. The agenda immediately shows the person taking minutes how they are to be organised, while the others know which topics will come up for discussion.

2. Determine the date, time, location and duration

In drawing up the agenda and the invitation to the meeting, determine not only the date and time but also the duration of the meeting to prevent it from going on for ever. Try to keep the meeting as short as possible and make a realistic estimate of the time required, for example by making a rough estimate of how much time is available for each item.

Arrange a location for the meeting that has everything you need, such as enough chairs, presentation resources or catering. As chair, think about where you are going to sit, for example somewhere where everyone can see your face.

3. Determine who will be present at the meeting

Only invite those people who are directly connected with the topic. Whom you invite also depends on the kind of meeting. The more people there are, the more difficult it is to hold the meeting.

4. Send the agenda

Send the agenda to the participants in good time so that each of them can be properly prepared. State the date, time and location in your e-mail and explain the purpose of the meeting. Attach the agenda as a document. At the opening of the meeting, check that everyone has the agenda in front of them.

5. Make sure that the meeting place is ready

An effective meeting begins on time. Make sure that the catering, beamers, chairs, etc. are ready so that you can get started right away. Check that the table is large enough for the number of people. If not, alter the size of the table or place the chairs closer together.

6. Open the meeting

Explain what the purpose of the meeting is. Ask whether the agenda is agreed and whether there are any special points. If someone will have to leave early, this is the moment to announce it. Ask the participants to switch off their mobile phones.

7. Lead the discussion

Adopt an active role: as chair you invite people to speak and make sure that they are all given the opportunity to voice their opinion and that it is given a hearing. You also sum up and draw conclusions at the end of each item on the agenda. You then ask those present whether they agree with your summing up or conclusion. This keeps their mind on the discussion and ensures that the agreements and decisions are a joint result. Keep discussions clear, keep the problem in focus, and try to find solutions. This makes matters clear for all the participants and helps the person taking minutes.

Stick to the agenda by, for example, curtailing long discussions and summing up. Keep an eye on the time, place your watch or your phone visibly in front of you. Pay attention to body language too: if no one is actively following the topic under discussion (leaning backwards, looking around, staring into space), it is a good idea to check whether this topic can be dealt with quickly.

8. Ask if there is any other business

Conclude the meeting by asking whether there is any other business but keep this short – about five to seven minutes. If there is no immediate (short) answer to a question, you can also include it as an item on the agenda of the next meeting.

9. Edit the minutes right away

Make sure that the participants receive the minutes within a few days. The minutes include what has been agreed upon and the tasks. You can use these minutes as a basis for the next meeting.