Guest Post – Quick Guide to Effective Meetings

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A Quick Guide to Effective Meetings by Dr. Stephen Earnest of

My name is Steve Earnest and am one of the principals of Earnest & Treff Consulting. I have taught at Indiana University since 1980, have a Master’s Degree in Counseling and a PhD. in Adult Education. Earnest & Treff Consulting was started with the underlying mission to help our clients conduct more effective and productive meetings. If a meeting is planned and executed with an understanding of what works, it will increase the teams efficiency in establishing and accomplishing goals, as well as the most basic desire: communicating.

We were asked by BoldThink to identify ten simple ways that clients can improve their meetings. Of course, to realize sustained and meaningful adoption of our principals, you will need our consulting services.  However, to start building the foundation for our principals, you can see the suggestions below.  For more detailed guidance, you can buy our book Plan, Practice, Participate for Better Teamwork or attend one of our two-day workshops.  Information is available on our website.

Here are ten ways that you can improve your meetings today:

  1. Public recording. The use of a flip chart makes it easier for everyone at the meeting to stay on track. It also results in more accurate minutes, which helps eliminate the experience of reading the minutes and wondering if it was the meeting you attended.  If you are technologically savvy, use an IPad or other similar device for note taking and note publishing.
  2. Distribute minutes quickly.   Use the public recording to distribute minutes as soon as possible.
  3. Plan your meetings ahead of time. Not just topics but also outcomes and steps needed.
  4. Establish roles for attendees. Roles such as devil’s advocate and angel (a pledge that no one will stand alone).
  5. Assign an observer. This person is responsible for watching HOW the meeting is conducted, not the content of the meeting.
  6. Evaluate meetings at the end. This can be as simple as a 3 x 5 card with a rating of one through ten.
  7. Make assignments specific and include them in the recording and the minutes. This includes, but is not limited to; homework, research, and work responsibilities.
  8. Use a futures list (sometimes called a parking lot). Keep public track of ideas that can’t be dealt with immediately and return to them at another time.
  9. Set time limits. If you need extra time that becomes a public decision.
  10. Pay attention to how decisions are made. Does silence = agreement?

CAVEAT to these meeting improvements.  Use one of these ways to improve your meetings at a time.  Otherwise, you may become overwhelmed by too many changes at once.

Look around you at the next meeting. Estimate the salaries of those in attendance. If you are not getting your money’s worth, we can help at or Earnest & Treff Consulting, 317-442-7226.

Please refer back to BoldThink’s website for my additional guest blog posts.  I will discuss the connection between adult development and leadership effectiveness soon.