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A two-hour meeting ends up running over three hours. You find that you’ve only addressed about half of what you had planned to. Some people are listening and on topic, others are on their phones or keep talking about unrelated things and carrying the whole group off-topic.

Sound familiar?

Welcome to the first of a three-part series on how you can plan and run more effective sessions. If you’re interested in reading more, subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss the next installment!

Coming soon:

6 Steps for Meeting Planning

3 Tricks to Ending Meetings Well


Part 1: 3 Secrets for Great Starts and Effective Meetings

These are my top 3 game-changing tips for starting sessions off well:

1. Context makes kindness: Have a check-in

Ever sat in a meeting after having a really tough day and you just couldn’t focus? Have you seen a colleague impatiently rush a session along because they needed to leave early?  

It is much easier for us to focus if we have had a chance to exchange exciting news, share that we just came out of a rough meeting, or even chat with Katie about her vacation. We can also be more kind to each other; for example, we can hold space for Paul, who just received some difficult family updates.

People are also more likely to speak up and voice their thoughts later on if they have already spoken (and were listened to) at the beginning. So a check-in to kick off a session of any kind can also help make sure that all voices are heard.

Note: If the group doesn’t know each other, also plan for brief introductions, or use a get-to-know-each-other activity. 

2. Have an up-front contract

It doesn’t matter who or how many you are meeting with – always start the session with an up-front contract.

This is very simple. All you need to do is check and agree on the session basics:

  • Restate how long the meeting or session was scheduled for and check if this still works for everyone.
  • Restate what the session is about and what outcomes the group is aiming for. 

To help you incorporate an up-front contract into your next session, I’ve created a free downloadable PDF to help guide the way. You can access it instantly when you sign up for my newsletter here!

3. Review the agenda together (or co-create one)

Sometimes, we have been provided with an agenda prior to the session, or you had a chance to create one and send it around. Other times we all arrive without a shared agenda. Either way, best to assume not everyone got around to reading that email, and make sure everyone knows what the plan is.

Don’t forget to plan for breaks!

From here, you are ready to dive into whatever you’ve got planned – be it consent-based decision-making, brainstorming ideas, or kicking off a design sprint. These basics will help your session get off to a great start. 

This may sound like a lot of time but it can take as little as 10-15 minutes. It’s well worth the time to give your meeting or session the best chance of being inclusive, productive, and successful.


How do you create an awesome agenda and make sure everything you need to talk about fits in the time you have for your meeting or session? 

Don’t forget to tune in next time for part two of this series: 6 Steps for Meeting Planning.