Planning Small Group Meetings

Learning Objectives

Describe strategies for planning effective, small-group meetings.

Two women arrange sticky notes on a window

Using tactile organizers like sticky notes can be a great way to get everyone involved in planning, brainstorming, or organizing. 

Take a moment to think about small groups that you are or have been a part of. Perhaps it was a club in school, a team at work, or a group assigned to work on a project together. You likely scheduled some type of meeting to discuss your goals and progress and to make assignments. Most of us have experienced frustration with meetings that were poorly planned, attended, or executed. They can seem like a waste of time. Conversely, meetings have the potential to be highly productive and help a group develop unity and creativity. This section will explore best practices to plan and execute high quality meetings for small groups, starting with pre-meeting preparation.[1] We’ll use an example of six students assigned to a semester-long group project in a research methods class.

Careful Planning: Before the meeting even begins, group leaders and members need to take time to clarify the purpose and goal of the meeting and how and when it will happen. In some cases, group members or leaders might determine that a meeting doesn’t need to happen at all. Perhaps a quick phone call, a shared document, a group email, or a meeting of only certain group members would be more effective than scheduling an entire group meeting. Using the example of the group project in the research methods class, a group text or email could be used to set up a schedule or for group members to sign up for different parts of the project, rather than scheduling a meeting for that purpose.

Clarify Roles: To use everyone’s time efficiently, a group leader or the meeting planner should communicate each person’s roles in advance. For example, Carl has agreed to schedule and plan meetings for the group project. Before the meeting, he asks Mehta to present the findings from the group text; Sonny to take notes; and Darla, who has graphic design skills, to mockup some graphics for their project.

Create an Agenda: An agenda should be sent to all meeting participants in advance and include the date, time, location (or virtual link), and length of meeting. It typically includes a detailed schedule or checklist of what the meeting plans to address and a list of any materials that need to be reviewed in advance. Prior to the research group’s second meeting, Carl emails the time and location of the meeting along with a list of the topics and tasks they will address.

For more on agendas, see the page on agendas in Module 13: Public Speaking on the Job.

Practice Question

  1. O'Hair, Dan, and Wiemann, Mary. Real Communication: An Introduction. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012.