Be the Host with the Most: Learn How to Sharpen your Meeting Protocol

Contrary to popular belief (and experience), meetings can be a wonderful opportunity to connect with people and build relationships. However, being a successful host requires more than just forwarding an invitation link. To sharpen your meeting protocol, you must turn your careful planning into clear norms and goals. 

Here’s how you can host an effective meeting that people actually want to attend:

Set a detailed  agenda

Start as you mean to go on! A meeting can only be effective if intentions and goals are clear. Create an agenda with a clear objective. What will success look like by the end of your time together? If you are leading the meeting, include a bulleted list of the topics that need to be discussed and assign these agenda items to specific people.  If you have time, send your detailed agenda in advance or put it directly in your calendar invitation. When people know the objective and how they will be expected to contribute, they can come prepared with their own ideas and points to discuss.  


Consider who needs to be there

The last thing a good host does is waste people’s time. The practice of detailed agenda setting, can help you assess your list of invitees with a critical eye. If someone has no agenda items assigned to them, what is their role? Do they need to attend or can they be briefed with an email afterward? 


Engage, listen, and engage some more

Let’s face it, as attendees, sometimes we come away from meetings feeling uninspired. And as leaders, and it can be downright difficult to get people to pay attention, especially if they aren’t in the same room. Avoid a lifeless lecture and establish structured opportunities for participants to engage. Especially if you have attendees who do not have specific agenda items assigned to them, be sure to create regular opportunities throughout the meeting for them  to speak and contribute their thoughts.  This will help people stay engaged and will show that you value their input.

Remember that as the meeting leader it’s your job to make sure people are heard. If people are interrupting each other or talking over one another it’s your job to respond without encouraging further interruptions. Try saying “I’d like to hear the rest of what Abdul was saying,” or Let’s come back to Tina’s comment to make sure we heard it fully.” You are the host and it’s your job to make sure everyone feels included.


Evaluate your meetings ruthlessly 

At the end of your meeting, ask your attendees: “did we meet our goal in this meeting?” If the answer is no, you can solicit suggestions for how to adjust your protocol next time. If the answer is yes, be sure to have your call to action ready. What are the concrete, time-stamped, and assigned next steps? When people leave a meeting with something to do, they feel their time has been used productively. And as a leader, you will know that you are driving action.  

Meetings not only bring people together, they are a space to create, gain insights, reflect, and build relationships. Whether you are meeting in-person or virtually, an effective meeting process is one where all participants work as a team and contribute.

The ultimate key is to prepare, listen, engage, and evaluate. Now go ahead and be the host with the most! – Following these simple rules can dramatically transform the productivity of all your meetings.


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