Client meetings can be time consuming and a lot of effort. To ensure the meeting runs as efficiently as possible, it’s important to be well-prepared. Too often, you will find that meetings take more time than you really have available in your schedule. And, if you have spent any time in Corporate America you’ve probably attended your fair share of meetings to plan the next meeting.

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The more prepared you are ahead of time, the more productive you will be. The attendees will appreciate your attention to detail, as well as your consideration of their time. Ask yourself if this can be handled via email, before sending out an invite, . With email people can read and digest the information at a time that works best for them.

Once you’ve determined that you still need to proceed with an meeting, decide which format will work best. Do you need everyone sitting in the same room? Will Skype or Google Hangout work for this meeting? Or perhaps a phone call will suffice.

Now that you have answered those questions, you can use this handy PDF checklist to ensure your meeting goes off without a hitch. Below is a breakdown of each of the items on the checklist.

Identify the purpose of the meeting

Are you making a decision, informing the team about a new process or procedure, or solving a problem? Knowing the answer to this question will help determine who needs to be there, what the agenda will be, and next steps.

Make sure you really need the meeting

Meetings can take over our calendars if we let them. I’ve spent (too many) hours in meetings that could have been handled via email. If you don’t have the proper amount of time to prepare for the meeting, you will end up wasting everyone’s time. Only schedule it if you have the time to properly prepare. Also, take into consideration if this is a topic that should be discussed one-on-one instead of in a group.

Develop a preliminary agenda

What will the sequence of the meeting be? Do you need to debrief after the last meeting? Plan time for a brief introduction. Ensure you have enough time for each topic, as well as time for questions and answers. The longer the meeting, the harder it is for people to stay focused. Build in breaks, if necessary.

Select the right participants

Take into consideration the overall reason for the meeting. Are the people you invited able to help you complete the tasks. Who are the key decision makers? Is each person knowledgeable about the subject(s) being presented? Consider how many people are being invited. The more people, the more interruptions there may be. Problem solving meetings should have a small core group, whereas brainstorming sessions may have a better outcome with more people and ideas.

Do attendees need to be prepared to present anything?

Depending on the content of the meeting, you may need people to take on various roles. Does each person need to speak on a specific agenda topic? Do you need a facilitator, timekeeper, contributor or an expert on a particular subject. Sometimes the expert may be from outside your team or group – be considerate of their time.

Confirm space availability for in-person meetings

If you have determined you need an in-person meeting, do you have a space at your office that is large enough? If you rent a co-working space in your town, do they have space available for the day/time needed?

Send meeting invitation

When you send the meeting invitation, be clear about the purpose of the meeting.

If decisions need to be made during the meeting, what process will be used

Be prepared ahead of time with a clear decision-making method.

  • Majority vote – each person has an opportunity to express their concerns and be heard
  • Group consensus – participants can share their expertise and allow for buy-in from all attendees
  • Leader’s choice – this is typically the fastest approach, and is appropriate in a crisis situation.

Identify, arrange for, and test any equipment needed

If you need an overhead projector, computer, special lighting or a microphone – be sure you test these items ahead of time. If you are sharing the agenda and documents via a collaboration tool you will need to ensure everyone has access to the files.

Finalize agenda and distribute to attendees

Ensure all attendees have a final copy of the agenda and any necessary materials. Make sure and other presenters are prepared.

Verify that key participants will be in attendance

Confirm attendance with any key stakeholders who have not responded to the invitation. The meeting will be ineffective if important people are not in the room.

Prepare yourself (presentation, printout, etc)

Practice your presentation to ensure you stick to your timeline. Most of all, when you are prepared it shows in your confidence. When you are confident, others will have confidence in you as well.

Over the years I have facilitated and attended more meetings than I can count. As a result of the facilitator using steps like those above, many meetings were worth the time. Sadly, though, unprepared presenters had everyone walking away wondering how they could get back the last hour of their day.

Do you have any tips and tricks that have helped you run a successful meeting?