Careers and Enterprise Blog




Transferable skills series

There is going to come a time once you graduate when you might find yourself in a team meeting or perhaps chairing a meeting. For some of you with part-time jobs, or on a work placement, you may have already experienced team meetings, mature students who have been in the workplace even more so. It also likely you have experienced some great meetings, and occasionally, some that haven’t gone quite so well.

A learned skill

Managing a meeting is a learned skill. The more you practice (and observe from attending meetings) the better you’ll get at it. There are no shortage of books and online articles providing numerous examples of how best to manage a meeting. It can be mind-boggling.

So where do you start?

At the start of every meeting remind yourself what are you aiming to achieve by bringing the team together? Are there key tasks and projects you want the team to move forward? Issues to address  and new opportunities to explore that require solutions and innovative ideas? Or is the meeting primarily about updating each other on activities they are working on? Or a combination?

Either way, if there is one thing you need to ensure when managing a meeting is that ‘something’ arises at the end of it – decisions, actions, shared information, and a consensus on the direction of travel.  What you certainly don’t want are meetings for meetings sake.

Types of meetings

These can vary according to the nature and size of the team and the culture of the organisation you find yourself working in. In larger organisations meetings can often be rather formal where many reports are  required in advance and sometimes rather lengthy minute taking required.

In smaller organisations you might find the meetings are less formal but the same steps are required – team updates, discussions and actions agreed. So, you could find yourself managing a team meeting of 10, 20 or more people, or at the other end of the scale, just a few people. Some meetings may have many agenda items, others may be highly focused requiring the team to focus on one or two key projects.

The common denominator in all meetings is that you are essentially managing a group of people, and as we all know, everyone is different. Each of us bring a range of skills and experiences to the workplace and different things that drive us.

So, understanding your team is vital as you will want to harness these skills and motivations. Some will have a lot to say (maybe too much), others may be quieter (and you’ll need to involve them), some will have a lot of experience you need to draw upon, others may be less experienced or new to the team. It is a generalisation, but no one comes to work to do a bad job. Your role in managing a meeting is to facilitate colleagues to do a great job.


Let’s presume you are managing a monthly department meeting.

Before the meeting

  • As mentioned above, prepare for your meeting. Think in advance what you seek to achieve by the end of it. Refer to the notes / minutes from the previous meeting. Are some items now resolved? What has happened since the last meeting that team members need to report on? Request members to send any documents that need to read by others in advance. This helps saves time at the meeting.
  • Send out an agenda (+ any documents) in advance of the meeting with what is to be discussed.  The number of items on the agenda will be determined by what you see as priority and the time you have for the meeting. You may also have guest team members or an external partner joining you providing a presentation. You will need to allocate them appropriate time. You are unlikely to cover 20 items in a 30-minute meeting!  You will also want to offer an opportunity for  the team to add items to the agenda and you will need to filter whether this can be included. So, forming an agenda is about finding the right balance for the time allocated.
  • You will also need to ask people if they can attend the meeting, you are not always going to get a full house. If people are sending apologies for various reasons, ask them to provide you with an update so you can share at the meeting.

At the meeting

  • Welcome everyone, especially new members to the team and any visiting guests. Read out any apologies and set the scene for today’s meeting.  Some items on the agenda may require more time than others, so you’ll need to indicate how you want to allocate the time.

I’m sure we are all busy and I would like to finish the meeting on time, I’m also keen we focus today’s meeting looking at agenda items 2 & 3 – the new product launch and updates for the web and allow time for group discussion, so can I ask others to be brief with their updates.’

  • Take notes. Something you may prefer to do yourself or ask a colleague to take them. These will form your minutes of the meeting. Keep them brief but be sure and capture decisions made and actions.
  • You will also need to watch out for distractions – people regularly interrupting others before they have had chance to finish, people dominating discussions, team members talking amongst themselves, people raising agenda items out of place, other colleagues making phone calls (unless of course it is a key client or the CEO on the line!). You don’t want an atmosphere of complete silence, we are not at school anymore, but your role is to give people a chance to speak and be heard. Be assertive where required and politely ask colleagues to return to the discussion.
  • Don’t assume that everyone is aware of everything.  If you think it is appropriate, ask team members to provide some brief background to the project they are working on. This is especially important for new team members and guests.
  • Assist the team to understand what is being discussed
  • At the end of each update, thank the team member, we all like to be thanked, don’t we? Welcome observations and suggestions from others where you feel appropriate. Ask open questions. There may be ideas other team members have that could help with the project. If you think that is the case, especially with complex or priority projects ask the question.

‘It is all sounding good, Tim, do you need any support or further information from the team, or are you OK with this?’

  • At the end of each agenda item summarise the actions.
  • Check the clock, are you keeping to time? You need to keep things moving. Bring updates to a close if you need to. ‘I’m conscious of the time, Jane, just another minute on this please.’
  • Leave yourself time for AOB. What’s this? Any other Business. AOB can often be rushed as it appears at the end of an agenda, but it can be valuable opportunity for people to provide ideas and updates not already discussed.
  • The meeting is drawing to a close, so before everyone heads off it is always a good idea to briefly remind the team what has been agreed. Summarise the actions and read these back to the team.
  • Next meeting. If not already in the diary, find suitable date options for the next meeting.
  • … and finally, an acknowledgement. ‘Thank you everyone for your contributions today, great to hear we are moving forward.’

After the meeting

  • Write up the minutes so they are clear and easily understandable. (For smaller team meetings you may just want to make a brief list of notes and actions). It is always a good idea to ask people to get back to you in case anything is missing.
  • E-mail the minutes with an accompanying note and send a calendar invite or set up a Doodle Poll for the next meeting, face-to-face or online.

Finally, got 5 minutes?

Watch this brief clip of how not to manage a team meeting.

Enjoy your future meetings!

David Williamson

CCCU, Enterprise Development Manager

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