Ways to make meetings more effective and efficient

Dennis Sparks

Most school communities would be more focused and have a lot more energy if meetings were more effective and efficient. Boring, unproductive meetings are a sure-fire way of destroying enthusiasm and momentum.

Here are several ideas for improving both the process and outcome of meetings:

1. A reader of a recent post in which I described Tony Schwartz’s notion of “disciplined meetings” noted the value of group norms – or what I think I of as group agreements – and of protocols to improve the quality of a group’s work.

2. Have brief standup meetings for small groups. (As someone who works at standup desks, I can attest to the counterintuitive boost in energy it provides.) This style of meeting is most effective when meetings are less than 15 minutes in length and occur at the beginning of the day or an event to enable participants to quickly check in with one another regarding responsibilities and problems. I can guarantee two things: the meeting will have more energy, and It will not go on an longer than is absolutely necessary.

3. Introduce and adopt as a group agreement the practice of “calendar integrity.” That means participants honor the commitments on their calendars–they are present at the beginning of the meeting, are prepared for and fully engaged with agenda items, and stay until the meeting’s conclusion.

4. Apply the discipline of “next action thinking” in the last few minutes of every meeting to ensure clarity about individual and group responsibilities.

5. Practice the procedures and routines of effective meetings – gather input from the group regarding agenda items, have written agendas with clear outcomes, use processes appropriate to particular agenda items and outcomes, etc. (I addressed that issue in more detail in a previous post.)

Question: What methods and/or resources do you use to ensure that meetings are productive and have high levels of engagement?

2 Responses to “Ways to make meetings more effective and efficient”


  1. 1 Brenda giourmetakis January 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I have begun to send out a video ahead of time with administrivia as well as instructions for the meeting. Eg. What to read, what to bring, what to prepare for. Our meetings have changed from endlessly discussing items of small importance to deeper conversations on important items that will affect children and our teaching practices.

    • 2 Dennis Sparks January 17, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Thanks, Brenda, for your great suggestions on making meetings more effective. It will be wonderful someday when we can say about all meetings that they produce “deeper conversations on important items that will affect children and our teaching practices.”


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