How to run a meeting your participants will want to engage in

Thomas Paris
September 29, 2021
How to run a meeting your participants will want to engage in | Hoppier

Lots of people think meetings are easy to plan and run, but you know differently. Running an engaging, effective meeting is harder than it looks.

In this guide, we’ll take you through our best advice on how to run an effective meeting. We’ll share our strategy for planning, hosting, and following up. Plus, we’ve pulled together some expert tips on how to make your meeting more engaging.

How to run an effective meeting

Meeting management isn’t always a breeze. It takes practice to become an expert at running effective meetings. If you’re not sure where to start or want a refresher, here’s our best advice on how to run a meeting.

1. Set a goal

Any good meeting needs a goal. Without one, nobody knows why they’re meeting or what they’re supposed to achieve. Set a goal so that you can organize and host a meeting that takes you closer to success.

Decide whether you’re meeting to discuss an idea and gather lots of creative suggestions to move forward with. Or maybe you need to meet to make a final, crucial decision about your business plan. They’re both very different meetings, and they need a totally unique approach.

Consider why you want to host this meeting and what your ideal outcome would be. This will help you get the details just right — from the format to the invite list to the agenda.

2. Decide on a format

Once you’ve settled on what your overall goal is, you can start thinking about the format that your meeting will take. Hosting a brainstorming session is very different from hosting an investor meeting or kickoff meeting, so you’ll want to find a format that works best for your event.

Think about the purpose of your meeting, the number of people involved, and what you’ll be doing. If you’re having heavy discussions or need to focus on decision making, opt for a structured format in a quiet meeting room with few distractions. For a more creative type of meeting, keep your session more open and host it in a more flexible space, so you can use resources like whiteboards and sticky notes to support your discussions.

Sometimes your meetings will be more casual than others. For example, a quick team meeting could take the form of a daily stand up where you all share what you’re working on. This works well in both an office and on a video call for remote teams. You might even decide that you don’t need a formal meeting at all, and instead opt for a phone call.

3. Set a date and invite your guests

You’re clear on your goal, and you know what type of meeting you need to host. Next, you need to confirm your guest list, set a date, and get those invitations out.

For some meetings, it’s easier to figure out who you need around the table. If you’re hosting a meeting with external partners, this might be the first time you’re meeting them. Call on your team members to help you find the right people to join your meeting if you’re not sure.

Setting a date for a meeting can also be challenging — especially if you have lots of decision makers or leaders involved. People have busy schedules, and it’s tricky to pin them down. Use a meeting scheduling tool like Doodle to poll people about their best dates, then go with the most popular option.

Once you’re all set with your guest list, craft a meeting invite to send out. Keep it simple, and let guests know you’ll share more details closer to the meeting. This is a great way to avoid confusing your guests with multiple versions of documents if things are likely to change before the meeting rolls around.

4. Create and share a meeting agenda

Nobody likes to show up to an in-person or virtual meeting without knowing what’s happening. Create and send a meeting agenda to your guests in advance, so they can feel just as prepared as you are.

Put together an agenda for your meeting that covers your main talking points (or agenda items) and the order you’re going to discuss them in. Your agenda should also feature your meeting start and end times, and having suggested times alongside each agenda item can help guide your guests.

Your meeting agenda serves multiple purposes. It lets your participants know exactly what you plan to discuss and in what order so they can gather their thoughts and contribute more effectively. It also helps you keep the meeting on track — if a discussion strays outside the agenda, you’re running behind, or you have latecomers, you can quickly reference the agenda to refocus.

5. Be a mindful meeting host

When it’s time for your meeting to take place, you’ll need to act as a confident facilitator to help things run smoothly. Meetings can quickly head off topic, and some voices become louder than others, so it’s your job to act as a mindful host and moderator.

Before the meeting begins, welcome your guests and help them feel comfortable. Start your meeting on time to set yourself up for success. At the beginning of the meeting, establish some ground rules that everyone should pay attention to. Ask your guests to be respectful, to allow room for others to talk, and to actively listen when someone is talking.

Throughout the meeting, guide your participants and make sure that you stick to the agenda. If the conversation heads off topic, bring it back and remind everyone why you’re here. Share an action plan at the end of the meeting that covers what was discussed and what needs to happen next. You could also set a date for the next meeting so you’re prepared early.

Make sure that you end your meeting on time. There’s nothing worse than when a meeting runs over and guests need to be somewhere else. Keeping to time shows respect for your guests’ schedules and keeps everyone happy.

6. Follow-up on any actions or decisions

Most meetings result in a decision or a list of actions that need to take place. If it’s within your remit, commit to following up on these action items so that progress happens.

It’s all too easy for people to walk away from a meeting with a to-do list only to forget about it completely. Don’t rely on your guests writing things down — instead take a set of meeting minutes and share the action items with everyone afterwards. This helps keep people accountable, and gives them a useful list that they can refer back to.

To make it easier to monitor progress, give your action items a deadline. That way, you can follow up with your meeting participants at the right time to check that things are running as they should. If not, you can proactively step in and encourage them to make things happen before your project falls behind schedule.

4 ways to make your meeting more engaging

How to run a meeting: Two team members shake hands

It can be tough to get people to stay engaged throughout a meeting — especially if it’s long or you’re discussing a challenging subject. Here are some ideas to help you plan and host a meeting that people will really engage with.

1. Keep it short and sweet

There’s nothing worse than a meeting that seems to drag on without a time limit. Keep your meeting to the point, and only gather everyone together for as long as you need.

Avoid the temptation to try and discuss too much at your meeting. Instead, get together with separate groups to discuss smaller matters independently — or leave most of it to email with the key topic taking center stage at the meeting.

2. Clearly set out what the goal of the meeting is

A productive meeting is a successful meeting, so give your guests the best possible chance by being direct about what you’re there to talk about.

Make sure your participants know the goal of your meeting in advance. That way, they can prepare everything they need to help discussions move along with purpose. If you’re not sure what you’re trying to achieve, hold off on scheduling the meeting until that’s clearer.

3. Proactively encourage your guests to take part

It’s not uncommon to find a handful of people talking more than others during a meeting. Sometimes it’s because they’re naturally outspoken, but other times it’s because they’re taking control of the conversation.

Be an active host and create space for everyone to join in the conversation. Ask your guest to give their opinion, to share an insight, or to take the lead on an agenda topic. Give everyone the chance to have their say in a positive way, and don’t let one person dominate the discussion.

4. Ask guests to avoid distractions

Our lives are all busy, filled with too many notifications and distractions to keep track of. Suggest that your meeting participants limit their exposure to these during your time together for a more effective, engaging discussion.

While banning phones may be a step too far, you could ask people to leave them in their bags or place them out of reach if you’re hosting a virtual event. Ask your guests to bring only what they need and to keep distractions to a minimum — especially when joining a video call or phone meeting from home.

Hoppier: A fresh alternative to tired meeting catering

We’ve all turned up to those meetings where all that’s on offer is some bad coffee and a handful of cookies. Give your guests something a little more exciting by switching up your event catering.

How to run a meeting: A virtual credit card for meeting catering

Use a tool like Hoppier to give your guests the freedom to choose their ideal drinks, snacks, or lunch. With a virtual credit card, they can order from their favorite vendors to be delivered to your meeting venue — or home if you’re meeting virtually. It’s a great way to inject a surprise into your meeting and make it more engaging.

Hoppier is easy to set up and manage. Once you’ve created an account, you can quickly create a program and customize your card. Add your brand logo and colors, then set a spending limit and a start and end date for the card. You can also personalize the list of vendors your guests can order from or leave it open to give them the ultimate choice.

How to run a meeting: Vendors for meeting catering

When you’re ready to send out your meeting agenda, include details on how they can access their Hoppier card too. Tell them to have fun choosing their ideal order to enjoy with you on meeting day. It’s perfect for a day-long workshop where you break for lunch or to add some excitement to a brunch meeting.

Make your meetings more engaging

Running effective meetings doesn’t happen right away. You first need to understand how to plan and host one, then add in some engagement ideas to help your guests stay focused. With the right tools, ideas, and tips, you can take your meetings from lackluster to awesome.

If you’re interested in finding even more ideas to increase engagement with your meetings and other events, tune in to our webinar on the best ways to create engaging virtual events. It’s filled with expert ideas and tips to keep people interested in your next virtual meeting.

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