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3 Steps to Leading Actionable Meetings

Leading an effective meeting is far more than scheduling a block of time on everyone’s calendar.

As a leader, you’re the one whom people expect to move the group forward and have success. Successful leaders have a goal and utilize the group strength to provide the details on the path in order to reach the goal. 

Challenges multiply when you’re leading remote/virtual teams. Clean-up from unclear or miscommunicated discussions is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Thoughtful preparation sets you up for success and reduces drag on your progress later.

1) Clarity on the goal of the meeting

“Begin with the end in mind” – Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

As a meeting host, you are the leader of the discussion and the group of people. Sharing an objective in advance of a meeting has immense impact on the overall meeting effectiveness. Having a clear, communicated goal helps when a discussion gets off track and provides the ability to pull it back towards the goal.

2) Define the path to the goal

“If you fail to plan then you’re planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin, famous old guy and US founding father

Your agenda is the road map for the meeting. Design each topic as a step toward your goal.

  • Prepare and get everyone on the same page;
  • Define the core components of the discussion;
  • Include a topic to wrap-up and review


Each agenda topic must be relevant and support the objective of the meeting. Consider having a goal for your agenda topics too. Be clear about what you want from people in the meeting— suggestions, feedback, questions, alignment.

Hint: Use verbs in your agenda topics. Example: select replacement vendor; finalize topics for Q3 blog posts; set schedule for product releases; recap meeting takeaways.

3) Everyone leaves with the same results

“Contrary to popular wisdom, the mark of a great meeting is not how short it is or whether it ends on time. The key is whether it ends with clarity and commitment from participants” – Patrick Lencioni, Death by Meeting

By far the most valuable part of an effective meeting is having everyone clear on the outcomes of the meeting and commitments moving forward. This is an important, deliberate step in the meeting to wrap up the conversation and ensure everyone leaves with a common understanding. Have you ever been part of a great conversation that went nowhere? It leaves you frustrated and not valued.

Confirm and document next steps. This is the best way to ensure commitments and progress after the meeting. Increasing specificity improves the probability of completion. Who is going to do what by when!


“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street” – Dr, Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

We find leading a meeting similar to giving a major presentation (outline your topic, share your topic and summarize your topic). The goal and agenda prepares attendees for discussion; everyone then can engage and work through the topics; the wrap-up gives people a feeling the time was well spent and clarity on next steps.

While not a complex process, too many people try to take shortcuts which ends up as a waste of time for all concerned.

Being a leader doesn’t mean being controlling. It means you’re taking responsibility for moving the conversation to success.

Ric Pratte

Ric Pratte is CEO & Co-Founder of AlignMeeting. Ric is a long time high-tech entrepreneur and is currently focused on new business models in our digital world such as social business, digital sales & marketing, predictive analytics and game mechanics. Previously, Ric was a President & COO of Rapid Insight; Founder & CEO of JitterJam, a pioneer in SocialCRM software that was sold to Meltwater Group in 2011; and Co-Founder & CEO of Campagne Associates, acquired by Blackbaud, Inc. in 2006. Follow Ric on Twitter: @ricpratte

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