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Meetings Management: Whose Role Is It Anyway?

Because there are many different meeting formats and meeting agendas vary considerably, the type of control system that is used in a given meeting should change accordingly. For example, a large meeting with many agenda items and high attendance is likely to need considerable structure and strong chairperson skills to ensure that people’s attention is focused (and that side discussions do not break out and unnecessarily elongate the proceedings).

At the other end of the scale, a small meeting might not need much formal control at all, with all attendees contributing to the process of keeping the discussions on track and on time. What is usually common to the effective control of all meetings, however, is note-taking. In some cases this may involve full “minute-taking” to record every word on a verbatim basis. This occurs in highly formal meetings such as Annual General Meetings of businesses with their shareholders or in union negotiations.

In other cases, note-taking will be only a simple summary of major points or to record decisions taken from time-to-time. Whether they are detailed or not, notes are always useful to ensure that what is discussed and agreed by way of action is clear to everyone attending. In addition, it ensures that issues do not have to be raised again and again because no one can remember what was discussed or agreed at the last meeting. 

Here are some ways to help ensure agenda item discussions move towards decisions:

  • Encourage participants to make summary notes as the meeting progresses – capturing key points, highlights and challenges. Sensible note-taking (i.e., not simply writing down everything) saves time asking questions that have already been addressed. It also helps people to stay focused and engaged with the discussion. There’s no prescriptive format, because we all take notes in different ways that are effective for us. Some use mind-maps and some use lists, while others draw pictures (“doodling” doesn’t count!).
  • Summarize regularly – this helps keep the group from rehashing material and provides a sense of “progress” (“So, we’ve established that the ABC system probably has only six months working life remaining and that the XYZ system is affordable and can be installed with only one day’s downtime. If that’s the case …”)
  • Talk about decisions not only in terms of agreement or information, but in terms of:
    • Action – what will be done?
    • Dates – what will be done by what date/time (or from what date/time)?
    • People – what will be done, by what date, by whom?
    • Accountability / measurement – how will we know the decision has been followed-through successfully or otherwise?

The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Meetings Management Video Vignette Set.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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