Running an Effective Meeting

Organizations that hold meetings that are long, disorganized, or slow moving can create frustration among their members. Often, the way in which meetings are conducted becomes the determining factor of the group’s success. Hence, it is very important that student leaders know how to effectively run a meeting. In order to do so, one must do a lot of planning. As a leader of your organization, remember to be sensitive to the climate of the meeting and always remember that there are times when rules must be bent in order to meet the goals of your organization.

Meetings are the glue that holds your organization together. Organized gatherings give members an opportunity to talk about their goals and objectives, discuss problems and questions, communicate with each other, as well as provide an opportunity to catch up on events. But perhaps the most important reason for having meetings is to bring your membership together to make decisions and promote group cohesiveness.

The secret to running a successful meeting is simple: plan ahead. Start with careful planning, finish with thorough follow-up and your meeting will be successful.

  • Pick a room that is physically comfortable for the number of people who will attend and arrange the room so that members can face each other in a U-shape or circle pattern.
  • Meet with your officers before each meeting to set goals and plan an agenda. Define the purpose of the meeting. If you can’t come up with a purpose, don’t have a meeting.
  • Choose an appropriate meeting time, set a time limit and do not run longer than the allotted time. Try to implement visual aids that enhance interest.
  • Be sure everyone involved knows when and where the meeting is to be held.

As students, you have several obligations to balance between your academic program, employment, and co-curricular involvement. The last thing you want to do is waste time in meetings that run longer than necessary. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to keep meetings moving forward and to keep members on task. However, you will not be successful if your members do not abide by the standards you set to keep things running smoothly. Try these suggestions:

Helpful Hints for the Meeting:

  • Greet members and make them feel welcome
  • Start on time, end on time
  • Stick to the agenda
  • Solicit group discussion within the organization in order to get as many view points as possible
  • Provide direction for the discussion but remain open minded and democratic
  • Encourage feedback--members need to see that their input is important
  • Delegate responsibilities and set time limits
  • Keep minutes of the meeting
  • Show interest in members through appreciation, active listening and by admitting your mistakes
  • Summarize the important events and ideas discussed during the meeting
  • Set and announce a date, time and place for the next meeting
  • Write up minutes of each meeting within a few days and be sure to distribute copies to all members of the organization and to your advisor, as well as those individuals who are interested in joining your group
  • Discuss problems or issues that came up during the meeting with your officers
  • Follow-up on delegated tasks--verify with members that they understand their responsibilities
  • Place the unfinished business on next meeting’s agenda
  • Show your appreciation for those members who are working hard for your organization

Remember, ineffective and unorganized meetings accomplish very little and frustrate your members. Plan ahead by using the aforementioned guidelines and you’ll be amazed at what you and your organization can accomplish! Try this sample agenda and modify it to meet your needs.


*This guideline follows Roberts Rules of Order.  A simpler agenda may be used if you wish.  This suggested agenda may best suit an organization with a complex executive board or elaborate planning needs.

  1. Call To Order: The presiding officer (usually the president) does this to officially start the meeting when quorum (a majority of voting members) is met. The presiding officer begins with “I’d like to call this meeting to order at...” (It is expected of all members that they be prepared so that the meeting will start on time.)
  2. Role Call and Approval of Minutes (Secretary’s Report): The Secretary verbally calls role with those members in attendance responding that they are present. After completion, there should be a motion to approve minutes from the last meeting. The president asks if there are any changes, corrections or deletions to the minutes. (All members should receive and review the minutes before the meeting and at this time, note any changes that are deemed necessary for clarification.)
  3. Outside Business: This segment is used when someone (a guest) comes to your meeting to share information or request assistance. The president should ask the representative to give an explanation of the matter. Questions may be asked of the representative. Typically, motions regarding outside business are made during New Business should any member desire action to be taken. However, motions can be made during this segment.
  4. Officer Reports: Each of your officers, captains, or editors should discuss issues of importance to your group. Since these are reports, if there is a need to make motions based upon the information shared, then the motions should be made in New Business.
  5. Committee Reports: If you have committees, each one should offer a report on their committee’s activities that have taken place since the last meeting. This is a great time to share information and solicit assistance from other members.
  6. Unfinished (Old) Business: This part of the agenda is reserved for items that were brought up in the form of a motion during New Business at your last meeting, but no decision was reached or action taken. In order to discuss information here, it must be “brought to the table” in the form of a motion. If it was “tabled” at the last meeting, then there must be a motion to remove it from the table.
  7. Open Board Forum: When you need to discuss matters but don’t plan on taking official action, you can discuss it here. This forum is also a great place to discuss items that pertain to new business but require more than the average amount of discussion. However, all information presented here must be relevant to the business of your group, even though no motions or voting takes place.
  8. New Business: Similar to old business, discussion cannot take place until there is a motion on the table. The information presented here must not have been discussed at any previous meeting.
  9. Announcements: Any last remarks or items your or members of your group wish to share (i.e. birthdays, events, meetings, etc.) are mentioned here. It’s also a good time to remind members of upcoming events or meetings.