Virtual Learning Resource Centre

Meeting skills


This learning guide was written by Fiona Dent, client and programme director, and Cath Redman, e-learning consultant at Ashridge. It is one of a series produced by the Learning Resource Centre. Each guide sets out to give you a quick summary of the main theories on a particular topic backed up by a practical commentary based on Ashridge's long experience of consulting on and teaching management issues. We hope that it whets your appetite for more information. The guide points you in the direction of other sources such as key books, articles and videos.

This learning guide will help you run productive meetings. Managers spend around 40% of their time in meetings and it is estimated that around two out of three fail to meet their goals. Often viewed as one of the evils of business life, meetings are essential. They allow us to share information and solve problems collectively. The ability to effectively chair a meeting is seen as a crucial test of a manager's ability.

Professor John Kenneth Galbraith describes meetings as '' indispensable when you don't want to do anything.' All too often they are unproductive. Think about the last meeting you attended or ran. Did people stick to the point or end up light years away from the agenda? (that's assuming there is an agenda!). Did people come away with action points? Did things move forward as a result of the meeting?

Unlike some things in life, your ability to run a successful meeting is not something that will simply improve the more times you do it. It is a definite skill which has certain techniques associated with it. The good news is that it is a skill you can learn.

This learning guide illustrates some of the problems that people encounter when running meetings, and offers some solutions to help you improve future meetings you may run.

As many meetings are now held between members of teams that are geographically dispersed we have also included a section in the overview on e-meetings, which looks at some of the challenges technology can pose.

A range of videos, journals, and books etc., which are available at the Ashridge Learning Resource Centre, supports the guide.

Where to start

If you have less than an hour, read the overview section and the short best practice essay Manage meetings effectively. Once you have read the overview section, test your knowledge by attempting the short quiz. If you have a little more time, explore some of the suggested articles in the resources section and try the development activities.

If you feel you know enough about meeting procedures but need help in understanding the people side of meetings, watch the second of the Video Arts videos More Bloody Meetings in the resources section. This looks more at the human side of meetings and covers issues such as controlling aggression and making sure you get contributions from all the group members.

Last modified: 13/06/2007