Planning effective meetings

Here’s a short guide to help you in planning effective meetings in your workplace.

Facilitator and author Sam Kaner believes that there are three building blocks for planning effective meetings.

  1. Topics
  2. Outcomes
  3. Processes

In Kaner’s model each topic is viewed as a separate segment of a meeting. The desired outcome is like a goal for each segment of the meeting. He outlines seven types of meeting goals:

  1. Share information
  2. Advance the thinking
  3. Improve communication
  4. Build community
  5. Build capacity
  6. Make decisions
  7. Obtain input

Questions to ask before scheduling your meeting

Here’s the first thing to ask yourself  – “Is a meeting actually needed?” Lots of meetings are based on tradition or habit rather than real need. During my life as an employee I sat in lots of Monday morning meetings, wondering if I’d ever get that hour of my life back again…

Test your assumptions by asking yourself these questions:

  • Why?  Exactly why is a meeting needed?
  • Which? Topics need to be discussed?
  • What? Do you want to achieve?

If you’ve decided that you do need to have a meeting and you want to get value from your time and that of your colleagues by planning an effective meeting, you’ll need a strategy for each of the building blocks above.

Inform participants and structure your meeting

Before going into detailed planning, there are two further issues to address, known as  (a) ‘inform’ and (b) ‘structure’.


  • Who needs to be involved in these decisions?
  • Do they know exactly what will be discussed and why?
  • What information needs to be supplied beforehand?
  • Does everyone have the information needed to make a decision?


  • Structure the sequence of topics in a logical order (Strategic>Tactical>Operational)
  • Allocate time to each topic based on its importance
  • Develop focus questions

Use logical meeting structure as your friend

A logical meeting structure helps you to get through the more important issues first. Sometimes they may appear to be the ‘tough issues’  – and if that is the case you and your colleagues will need to be fresh with maximum thinking power available to tackle them. Planning effective meetings

(i) Strategic issues

These often relate to the longer-term future of the group and should be the main focus of the meeting. They need significant discussion time – preferably at the start of the meeting. Allow time for group input, discussion of alternatives and recommendations.

(ii) Tactical issues

Generally involve medium-term impacts and require less discussion time. They can also be delegated to subcommittees for their recommendation.

(iii) Operational issues

Normally relate to daily business functions and can be handled towards the end of a meeting.  Reporting on these prior to the meeting will free up time for questions.

Be clear on roles and the questions you need answered

Articulate clearly what you need from the group. It may help to write up (for yourself and for the group) a focus question for each topic or decision to be made.

As a facilitator of the meeting it is your role to:

  • Provide the context
  • Clarify the issue

It should be the group’s role to:

  • Identify the impacts
  • Identify options (using either a brainstorm and/or card-sort process)
  • Discuss options (You could use SWOT analysis, circle of control or six thinking hats)
  • Identify appropriate actions & timeframes

In closing off the topic discussion as a facilitator you should:

  • Summarise & record
  • Clarify the actions & timeframes
  • Identify responsibilities
  • Question to ensure clear understanding & commitment

Ref: Kaner, S et al. Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making

Got questions ? Need a hand with planning effective meetings in your workplace? Get in touch

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Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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