Skip to content Tips for Productive Meetings: The Top 5 Must-Have Elements

Tips for Productive Meetings: The Top 5 Must-Have Elements

Receive free IIBA updates and exclusive content!    

Are your meetings effective? Find out the must-have tips to running a successful meeting.

The purpose of most meetings is to make decisions. Are your meetings effective?  Do you attend meetings that are a waste of time? We’ve put together a list of elements that will make your meeting efficient and productive.

There are different reasons for holding meetings. They can be as broad as a staff meeting, hosting a brainstorming session, or selling a new idea. What they all have in common is that you have a group of people coming together for some value. As the host of the meeting, it’s your responsibility to ensure the meeting provides value and is respectful of their time.

Before you setup a meeting, consider if you can accomplish your objective via email or chat.  Don’t waste peoples valuable time bringing them together in a meeting if there’s an effective alternative. Once you decide to setup a meeting, here are the important elements of effective meetings:

1. State the Objective

Every meeting should have a purpose so meeting attendees understand why they need to attend your meeting.  Take a moment to document your objective. What are the outcomes you expect to achieve with this meeting? Be clear so attendees know what to expect. Use a descriptive title when you send your meeting invitation and include relevant background information if the topic is unfamiliar to the attendees.

By including your objectives with the meeting details, your attendees have the information to decide if they should attend the meeting or if there are other team members that may be more appropriate to attend. 

2. Include an Agenda
Where the objective defines the reason to have the meeting, the agenda defines what will happen during the meeting. Preparing and sending the agenda in advance of your meeting, gives attendees an understanding of what will be discussed so they can be prepared.

Agendas can include the questions to be answered or the decisions to be made. If certain people will be accountable for agenda items, add their names to the agenda to identify who is required for the meeting. An agenda gives the attendees an opportunity to connect with you about adding or modifying the agenda before the meeting.

3. Identify the Right Attendees
Time is money. When people attend meetings, it costs money. Having people attend meetings also has an opportunity cost of what they could be doing with their time instead of being in the meeting. Choose your attendees carefully.

Choosing who to invite to the meeting requires understanding:
  • Who is required, such as decision makers or subject matter experts, that are necessary to address specific agenda items.
  • Who will run the meeting, such as a facilitator, scribe or other role that is needed to ensure that the meeting’s objectives are met, and
  • Who is optional, such delegates or other attendees that may be needed. Be clear in the invitation why the optional participants have been invited.
Remember, when running collaborative meetings, the more people you have in a meeting, the more difficult it can be to facilitate.  Only invite required attendees to limit the discussion while involving the right stakeholders to make decisions.

4. Manage Your Time
To make a meeting productive, it’s important to keep the discussion on track and work through the agenda you set out. If the group has a tendency for side topic discussions, there are a few techniques that can be useful:
  • Use a timer to time-box the agenda items. Recruit a helper to keep the time and provide warnings when time is about to expire to help manage the discussion.
  • Use a parking lot list if items are raised that distract from the agenda. That parking lot list may be used for action items coming out of the meeting.
  • Before the meeting ends, ensure attendees are aligned on decisions made and next steps.

Starting and ending a meeting on time demonstrates organization and shows respect for people’s time. If you end a meeting 5 minutes early, it can allow people to take a break or move on to their next meeting so they can show up on time.

5. Share Meeting Documentation
A meeting may last an hour, but its outcomes may last much longer. Documentation is a key output of meetings. Summarize and share the important information after the meeting, such as decisions and action items (along with their owners and due dates), so those outcomes are on record.  This documentation can be as formal as an email or as informal as a chat message.  This is especially useful for groups where thoughts and ideas are fluidly changing, which can be difficult to manage.

Technology for Effective Meetings
There’s no doubt, use of technology for meetings has increased in recent years. Make sure to include the tools you will use in your meeting planning.  Consider these categories of tools for your virtual meetings:
  • Meeting tools for remote or hybrid meetings, such as video conference technology, chat or even a telephone!
  • Cloud word processor or content management tools to collaborate on shared documents.
  • Diagramming tools, to share and update visuals.
  • Online spreadsheet tools, to make review of structured data easy and collaborative.
  • Virtual whiteboards, to create and collaborate on project documentation.

Collaboration Techniques
The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®) Guide defines several techniques used to collaborate with stakeholders. The five essential meeting elements we’ve discussed in this post apply to these collaborative sessions too. Learn more about these techniques in Chapter 10 of the BABOK® Guide:


Want to explore more podcasts from Business Analysis Live? Find additional episodes here

About The Authors:
Susan Moore

Susan Moore, Community Engagement Manager, IIBA

Scott Bennett

Scott Bennett, Manager, Business Analysis, IIBA

We host Business Analysis Live to discuss business analysis topics and answer questions from our live audience.  We have a backlog of upcoming topics and we’re happy to take suggestions. Add a comment to one of our videos to suggest a topic you would like us to cover in an upcoming Business Analysis Live!


Must Read Blogs From IIBA


Top Business Analysis Myths

Breaking down the many myths and misunderstandings about the business analysis profession. 
Read the Blog
Business Analysis

Skills Every Business Analysis Professional Needs

Top skills a business analysis professional should have. The BABOK Guide outlines many important techniques and soft skills that employers are looking for.
Read The Blog

How to Ace Your Next Business Analysis Job interview

Find out about the top questions asked in a business analysis job interview and tune in to Business Analysis Live! for insights on how to best prepare for a job interview. 
Read the Blog