How to run a meeting

Some time after starting your first job you will probably end up running a meeting, even in a completely technical and non-managerial role. Maybe it’s to demo, to test a project, or to show a proof of concept to management. Perhaps you volunteered to run regular standup meetings when your boss is away from the office. Here are some tips for the inevitable:

#1 Pick an appropriate room.

This one seems like common sense, but I have seen people forget or neglect to look at the maximum occupancy of a room when booking a meeting. This turns it into an uncomfortable situation for the participants. Avoid the embarrassment and avoid breaking safety regulations by checking to make sure that the room is large enough for the number of people you invite, and that it is an appropriate setting (e.g. If you want people focused on completing a task during the meeting, don’t pick the break room).

#2 Have a clear agenda

Engineers and management tend to be busy people. Their time is extremely valuable to the company, so you should make sure that your meeting has a set focus that you are confident that you are prepared for. Whatever you do, do not wing it in the meeting or consume an unnecessary amount of time with small talk or jokes. Come up with clear steps for how you will proceed and try to follow them.

#4 Allow others to speak.

A meeting is not a presentation. Your participants should be actively participating and their input and feedback will be invaluable in the near future.

#5 Take written notes and send out a summary

Do try to take notes and have a way to organize them. I prefer to take notes in a table in excel when I am looking for specific input and feedback. Do not write down word for word what people say (you will not have time and they will feel uncomfortable); try to write concise paraphrasing. It is good practice to send out your written notes and summary with any action items to everyone who attended the meeting.

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