How to get the most out of meetings

  • by IMAGE

Ciara Conlon is a Leadership and Productivity coach, author and international keynote speaker. Ciara runs a leadership and team development consultancy working with leaders and teams to improve well-being productivity and performance. She has delivered her programmes in organisations such as Deloitte, KBC, Savills, The Central Bank and Smurfit Business School. She is a member of the Professional Speakers Association in Ireland and is regularly hired to motivate senior leadership teams.

Ciara is speaking at the next IMAGE Young Businesswomen's Forum on Tuesday, October 30 in the five-star Westbury Hotel. This month we're delivering a masterclass in finance, self-management and organisation. Get yourself sorted for tickets by contacting IMAGE (email [email protected] or phone (01) 271 9615) or visiting Eventbrite here

Meetings should be positive events. Unfortunately, through lack of planning and attention, people have allowed them to become untamed monsters. Having meetings when they’re not necessary and allowing them to drag on far longer than necessary have led to great losses in productivity and a certain distaste for the age old get together. But the coming together of people face to face has many benefits, as long as the negatives don’t outweigh the positives. What people need to do is get smarter about meetings and ensure that when meetings are held they are necessary and the most effective means of communication under the circumstances.

Start with a Plan


Before calling a meeting, you first have to do a lot of thinking and planning. Break the planning down into manageable sections by asking the following questions.

The first question to ask is whether the meeting is really necessary. Can you come to a decision in another way? Meetings are useful when discussion leads to better decision making. A meeting encourages everyone to share ideas and possible alternatives. A group can be more intelligent that an individual, so a group may find better solutions to problems.

Consider who you need at the meeting, who is essential and whether every- one you invite needs to be there for the whole meeting. You also need to think about who will chair the meeting and who will take notes:

With a clear agenda and a well?prepared chair, you’re ready for a successful meeting. During the meeting, you want to ensure that all meeting participants have the opportunity to contribute and prevent anyone from dominating the discussions.

Set ground rules

Creating ground rules for all meetings in your organisation will have a positive impact on the effectiveness of those meetings. It will also create positive habits for all employees. Typical ground rules for meetings could include the following:

-Start and finish the meeting on time.


-Don’t bring phones, laptops or other gadgets unless for approved note taking or presentations.

-Be present and engaged.

-Be honest.

-Be open to new ways of working and ideas.

-Respect others (all opinions are valid), but know you don’t have to accept something you disagree with.

-Speak up and be heard.

-Come prepared.


Ground rules create a safe and productive environment. Choose your company ground rules and ensure that they’re enforced at every meeting.

Staying on track

Having a clear agenda is the safest way to ensure that the meeting stays on track. With a clear purpose, the discussion should be focused on finding the right answers to the right questions. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the conversation stays on topic and that no one steers it away either accidentally or on purpose.

Sticking to the allotted time

Timekeeping is an essential part of any effective meeting. Everyone is busy. Some executives spend up to 80 per cent of their time in meetings, and they still have to get their job done. If a meeting runs over time, it can have a negative impact on many peoples’ days. The meeting chair is responsible for making sure the time is respected, but all meeting attendees can do their part and keep an eye on the time to make sure the meeting ends on time.

Generating positive contributions

The chair of the meeting should encourage the right sort of contribution from all who attend. Quieter people are often less likely to contribute, but they still need to be included and encouraged to share their ideas and opinions.


Circulate detailed agendas with outcomes required well before the meeting. This allows for people to think about their contributions and ideas and have them prepared in advance. Some people can’t think on the spot and need time to put their thoughts and ideas together.

As well as encouraging everyone to speak, the chair may also need to curb the contributions of some. Some people like the sound of their own voices or just have something to say about everything. Some want to hog the limelight; others don’t even know that their mouths are always open. It’s important to make these people aware that their contribution is valid and desired but that all voices should be heard.

Establishing clear action points

Your attention may wander while you’re in a meeting and you may miss one or two things that were said. That’s normal. However, for these reasons, it’s vital that the chair be good at summarising all actions agreed to ensure that everyone is clear and on board with action items going forward. The note taker will be responsible for taking note of all decisions taken and circulate them after the meeting.

If you can follow these outlines, you will have more productive and enjoyable meetings in your organisation.

Ciara Conlon has written two books on personal Productivity, this extract was taken from her most recent Productivity for Dummies published by Wiley 2016.



IMAGE Young Businesswomen's Forum:

A masterclass in finance, self-management and organisation

IMAGE invites you to a night of empowerment, inspiration and plenty of learnings at the next IMAGE Young Businesswomen's Forum on Tuesday, October 30 in the five-star Westbury Hotel.

This month we're delivering a masterclass in finance, self-management and organisation, enabling us to step up our game and get stuff done. On our panel this month, we will be hearing from three incredible experts in the fields above; including personal finance expert Sinead Ryan; leadership and productivity coach Ciara Conlon; and founder and CEO of Fetch Beauty, Lucy McPhail.

Each of these successful businesswomen will bring different learnings and perspectives to the panel as we touch on topics such as:

  • Team management
  • Time Management
  • Organisational skills
  • Finance
  • Working efficiently

As always, there will be plenty of opportunity at the end of the event to ask the experts your own personal questions.


WHEN Tuesday, October 30
Champagne & canapés from 6 pm

WHERE The Westbury Hotel, Dublin 2


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