Photo by Denise Jans

Meetings 101

Whether you are planning a meeting with one other person or a whole group of people, you want to be organized and prepared to guide the meeting, maximize your scheduled time, and encourage productive conversations. This page will give you best practices in three areas: scheduling, preparation and leading the meeting itself.

Scheduling a meeting

Before scheduling a meeting, determine why you want to have the meeting in the first place. What do you need to discuss? Is it something that can be quickly addressed in an email or does it require more discussion? If the subject does warrant a meeting, here are some best practices to consider when scheduling. 

  • Propose multiple days and times you are available. 

  • This way, you cut down on the back and forth trying to figure out a time that works for everyone. 

    -Be specific when mentioning days/times. Instead of saying "Thursday at 10am"
    , say "Thursday, July 21 at 10am in 2120B Wickson Hall". 
    -Pay attention to those who may be in a different time zone. 
    -If you are scheduling with a group of people, create a poll to identify a time when the most people are available. Some free polling websites include: When2meet, Doodle, and Survey Monkey.

  • Formalize the meeting location. 

  • Is the meeting in-person, virtual or hybrid? This can change people's availability, so be sure to clarify this early on. 
  • Send a calendar invite to everyone.
  • Once you have identified the day, time and location, send a calendar invitation. Make sure you include: 
    -A meeting agenda or other resources that are pertinent to the meeting.
    -The location or the link if it is virtual.
    -Double check that everything is correct and you have included all the necessary attachments before sending. 
  • If you need to cancel or reschedule, you should notify the person at least a day in advance. 

  • Things come up and sometimes you have to push a meeting to accommodate something else. Try to give the participants as much notice as possible.
    -If you do need to reschedule, be sure to propose new days/ times to meet. 
    -Try to not make a habit of canceling or rescheduling meetings. It can send a message that you are unreliable or unorganized. 

  • If you miss a meeting.

  • What happens if you miss a meeting, whether you had the wrong date or it slipped your mind?
    - You should immediately email the person you were supposed to meet with and apologize for your absence. If you need to reschedule, kindly ask them if they are willing to set a new time to meet.
    - Mistakes happen to everyone! Make sure that it doesn't happen again by setting a calendar reminder for future meetings so that you don't forget. 

Preparing for a meeting

No matter what type of meeting you have scheduled, make sure you come prepared. If you are leading a meeting, your first step should be to develop a meeting agenda. If you are a guest, assess the meeting agenda and evaluate what information you need to know or may need to provide for the meeting. Here are some things to consider when you are preparing for a meeting. 

  • Advising or mentoring meetings

  • A meeting outline or agenda is important, even in 1:1 meetings.  If you have a question to ask your advisor, make sure you've done some preliminary research first.

    For example, if you would like guidance on finding a practicum, make sure you read our resource page "Finding a Practicum" before your meeting. It is okay if you don't know exactly what you want to do for your project, but you should have spent some time considering your interests and done some preliminary "homework" first. This way, you can effectively brainstorm with your advisor on potential ideas based on your goals. 

  • Materials

  • If you are managing a meeting, you will want to consider what materials will be helpful for your meeting. Each meeting is different and may require materials. Here are some examples so you can prep to help make your meeting more efficient. 

    A meeting agenda is important to stay organized and on track during your meeting. Create an outline of the topics you want to cover. Prioritize more important topics at the beginning of the meeting. 

    A short brief can be written and distributed prior to a meeting to give participants background or contextual information on the topics you want to cover. The brief should be no more than 1-2 pages. You will want to include the brief in the reminder email you will send 1-2 days prior to your scheduled meeting. Writing a brief is ideal if you have a large group of people in a meeting with limited time. Having your participants review the brief prior to the meeting will eliminate the need to go over the background information and thus saving you precious meeting time. 

    A slideshow is another great way to guide your meeting and keep it moving. You can communicate and reinforce your main points with texts, data or graphics.

  • Reminder email

  • For larger meetings, it is a good practice to send an email reminder to participants 1-2 days prior to the meeting.

    The reminder email should reiterate the meeting day, time and location. Also include other important information such as directions to the nearest parking, the meeting location, or if there will be food or appetizers available. Lastly, attach the final agenda and any other resources. This may not be necessary for smaller, informal meetings. 

    An example:

    Good afternoon committee, 

    This is a reminder that we have a meeting scheduled tomorrow, July 20th at 4pm in 2120B Wickson Hall [link google maps location]. For those coming off campus, the closest parking is available here [provide link]. For guest passes, contact Jessica [include email address], otherwise guest parking is $12/day. The meeting room is on the second floor, up the stairs to the left. The meeting agenda and brief are attached to this email, please review prior to the meeting so we can jump right into discussion. There will be light appetizers and beverages available. 

    I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.

    All the best,

    [Your email signature]

Leading a meeting

Leading a meeting is a skill that is developed the more you practice. You have to balance the agenda and time, while being flexible enough to allow for productive conversations, but also keep the conversation on track. Here are some best practices to help you lead a meeting. 

  • Talk to your team

  • Prior to a meeting, you should gather input from your team on meeting content. What are the topics that need to be discussed or questions to be asked? It is a good time to clarify who is leading a meeting. If there are multiple people leading the meeting, identify who will lead which section.

  • Start and end the meeting on time

  • If you are in charge of a meeting, you should plan to arrive early. This allows you time to get set up and deal with any technological issues you might have before the meeting starts. Try your best to start and end the meeting on time. If there are a significant number of attendees missing when the clock strikes meeting time, give them a few minutes to arrive but aim to begin your meeting within 3-5 minutes of the start time. 

  • Introductions

  • If you are hosting a meeting where many people don't know each other, plan to do introductions. 

  • Agenda

  • Introduce agenda items and give attendees an opportunity to speak. It is important to be flexible with timing to allow productive conversation to happen. 

    Try to make sure that all meeting members have an opportunity to express their thoughts. If the conversation is dominated by a few people, directly ask other attendees for their opinions. For example, you could say "What are your thoughts on this idea, Jessica?". 

    The meeting leader should also keep an eye on the time. If the conversation is getting off-topic or if you have spent a lot of time on one subject, find a natural break in the conversation and guide the group to the next agenda item. You can say "in the interest of time, we should move to the next agenda item", or "this is great conversation, let's pin this topic and come back to it if we have time after we get through the agenda".  If there is still more discussion on that topic needed, you can let the participants know you will follow up via email for more comments, a vote, or to schedule a follow up meeting depending on the situation.

    If you are getting near the end of your meeting time and conversation is still flowing strongly, try to let the conversation wrap up naturally rather than cutting it off. 

  • Notes

  • Note taking is an important part of a meeting and a skill itself. If you are leading a meeting, you may not be able to focus on both leading the meeting and taking detailed notes. If that's the case, delegate someone to take notes. After your meeting, you will want to follow up with all attendees an overview of what was discussed and clearly state any action items. 

  • Ending a meeting

  • Leave the end of the meeting to discuss next steps. This discussion should identify who will do what and by when. Make sure that attendees are all aware of their responsibilities moving forward. 

  • Follow up

  • After the meeting, you should send a follow up to all participants. You should include the meeting outline, key points made for each topic and if relevant highlight any action items, who the item belongs to and the associated deadline.

    Example: 

    Dear committee,
    Thank you for attending yesterday's meeting. Here is a recap of our conversation: 

    Topic 1
    Main discussion points
    Action item, team member(s) and deadline 
    Topic 2 
    Main discussion points
    Action item, team member(s) and deadline 
    Topic 3
    Main discussion points
    Action item, team member(s) and deadline 
    Topic 4
    Did not discuss

    Since we ran over time, I invite you to give your feedback on Topic 4. Please provide your feedback by July 30th, so that we can incorporate your suggestions before our deadline of August 3rd. 

    Thank you for your participation in EPM committee.

    Regards,
    [Your email signature]