Make the Most of Your Meetings

By Renee Houston Zemanski

Not another meeting, your colleagues whine as they read the memo. How can you prevent this from happening, especially when you’re the one holding the meeting? Just make sure you follow this advice from Karl Walinskas, a national speaker and president of The Speaking Connection, a firm that helps individuals and businesses who want to communicate more effectively.

“The key to any effective business meeting is how you communicate with your key players and attendees before, during and after the meeting.” says Walinskas.

Before the Meeting

Determine who should attend the meeting. Make sure the people you invite are either stakeholders or resources Next, do your prep work and give attendees information to review in advance so they are prepared to participate, says Walinskas.

Develop an agenda with the objective listed at the top and send it out with sufficient notice. The agenda should be clear and compelling and make people want to attend the meeting.

During the Meeting

“Start on time and stick to the schedule,” advises Walinskas. “At the beginning of the meeting, restate the objective and define what a successful outcome will be – most likely, a decision.”

Next, says Walinskas, control personalities during a meeting. Don’t allow someone to shoot down ideas and discourage others. To do this, Walinskas says to set ground rules, including keeping the focus on the objective and defining the ability to take a time out to derail a conversation that’s going off track. You can do this by what Walinskas calls creating a parking lot.

“A parking lot is a place – a chalkboard or flip chart – where you write down any valid ideas that aren’t pertinent to the meeting,” says Walinskas. “Then you assign the person responsible for the idea to follow-up at a later date. Now the individual’s validated and the onus is on him or her to revisit the topic while you keep the meeting on track.”

At the end of the meeting list the action items, the person responsible for them and a date for completion.

After the Meeting

Do a quick checkup on how the meeting went by asking attendees questions, such as: Did we accomplish the objective? What could we have added to make this meeting better?

It’s important that the minutes of the meeting be dispersed, ideally, right after the meeting, or at the latest within two days, to participants and relevant stakeholders. Then follow-through and make sure that people are doing what they said they would do.

“This all sounds like a lot of work, but it minimizes the amount of time you have to spend in the meeting room when you could be out selling,” says Walinskas. “By doing these things you can cut meeting time in half and double the productivity that comes out of business meetings.”

Contact Walinskas at or visit his Website at