How to Lead Collaborative Meetings

We all know most meetings are bad. But why? Let’s discuss the cost of ineffective meetings and how to lead your most collaborative and successful meetings yet.

Collaborative meetings start with people in mind

You know when pizza is bad it’s still kind of good. And when it’s good it’s really good. Well, most meetings are the opposite of that. When they’re good they're normally still bad and when they’re bad they are really, really bad. But it doesn’t need to be that way! Let me explain.

The ability to lead collaborative meetings is not just a skill, but a superpower. It harnesses the collective brilliance of your team, transforms individual minds into a powerhouse of ideas, solutions, and shared goals.

Collaborative meetings are about creating an inclusive environment where every voice has the opportunity to be heard, valued, and empowered to contribute. By fostering open dialogue and respectful exchange of ideas, meetings can empower the team to innovate and drive success. Before we look at how to lead collaborative meetings, let’s diagnose why most meetings are so bad in the first place.


The cost of bad meetings

A study by Atlassian paints a pretty grim picture of the modern meeting. A little less than half of participants described meetings as the #1 office time waster, 45% felt overwhelmed, and almost three-quarters did work for other projects during meetings. Another report by found that unnecessary meetings were a huge waste of money. For companies with 100 employees, unnecessary meetings cost $2 million a year. Workers spend 18 hours a week, on average, in meetings, although 30% of those meetings are deemed unproductive and unnecessary.

Bad meetings are, well, bad. They’re terrible for company morale and culture, they leave everyone confused, and they cost a lot of time and money.

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What makes a bad meeting?

Look, we won’t lie–there are a bunch of ways meetings go awry. But, generally speaking, the roots of bad meetings can be summarized into these categories:

  • Meeting too often: Do we really need this meeting?!
  • Including too many people: Your meetings shouldn’t feel like you’re giving a speech. No one wants to participate in them either.
  • Not keeping to the agenda: The agenda is the most important bit. Don’t lose it.
  • Not taking notes: Asynchronous work relies on these.
  • Not ending strong: Follow up on action items and reply to previous questions knowledgeably.


How to lead effective meetings


The Five P’s

The Principle of the Five P’s has been around for a while, but it’s the foundation of effective meetings and will immediately transform how you run them. Experts describe the “perfect meeting” and the Principle of the Five P’s in a bunch of different ways, but we’ll follow LinkedIn’s example.


The purpose of a meeting is your to the North Star; it provides direction and clarity. Every meeting must have a clear and specific purpose or objective. If you lose your purpose, you’ll quickly find that the rest of the process falls apart and foundationally ensures that participants are aligned and understand the overarching goal. Without a purpose, a meeting risks meandering into tangential discussions, wasting time and resources.

How to keep a meeting on track:

  • Acknowledge the Drift: Diplomatically noting the divergence and expressing the need to refocus on the intended goals.
  • Restate the Purpose: Clearly articulate the main goals and why they are important..
  • Redirect the Conversation: Politely interrupt side discussions and encourage participants to contribute to the central themes of the meeting.
  • Clarify Expectations: Reinforce the expectations for the meeting. Emphasize the need to stay on topic and work collaboratively toward achieving the meeting's objectives.
  • Encourage Participation: Engage participants by encouraging them to share their perspectives. This not only involves them in redirecting the conversation but also provides valuable insights that may contribute to achieving the meeting's goals.
  • Adjust the Agenda if Necessary: If the meeting really derails, assess whether it's crucial to adjust the meeting agenda. If the new topic is important, decide whether to address it immediately or defer it to a future meeting.


Preparation ensures smooth execution. To make a meeting truly productive, meeting leaders and participants should come prepared. This involves doing the necessary homework, gathering relevant information, and being ready to actively contribute to the discussions. A well-prepared meeting reflects the commitment of its participants, fostering a collaborative environment where ideas can be shared and decisions can be made effectively.

How to prepare to lead a meeting:

  • Define Objectives: Clearly outline the purpose and goals of the meeting to guide discussions and outcomes.
  • Develop an Agenda: Create a detailed agenda, sharing topics, time allocations, and required materials with participants.
  • Identify Key Participants: Invite relevant stakeholders and decision-makers to ensure comprehensive input.
  • Assign Roles: If necessary, delegate roles like timekeeping or note-taking to ensure smooth coordination.
  • Prepare Materials: Gather necessary materials and test technology, ensuring a seamless presentation.


How to prepare to attend a meeting:

  • Review the Agenda: Familiarize yourself with the meeting agenda and any materials provided in advance.
  • Do Pre-Meeting Research: Conduct research on relevant topics to contribute meaningfully to discussions.
  • Set Personal Objectives: Define your personal goals for the meeting to stay focused and engaged.
  • Prepare Questions: Anticipate questions and points of clarification to actively participate in discussions.
  • Bring Necessary Materials: Ensure you have required materials and technology for note-taking and participation.


The process of a meeting is its skeleton, providing structure and order. Like a well-choreographed dance, a meeting should have a clear and structured process. This ensures that the meeting stays on track, avoids unnecessary detours, and covers all essential topics. A defined process facilitates a seamless flow of information, discussions, and decision-making, making the most of the time allocated for the meeting. Basically, make sure your meeting is structured.


Just like anything else you do, crafting the right team is paramount. Just as a team benefits from having individuals with complementary skills, a meeting benefits from inviting only those who truly need to be involved. This selective approach not only ensures efficiency but also prevents the meeting from getting entangled in irrelevant discussions. By having the right participants, the meeting becomes a focused and purposeful gathering.


Progress signifies movement toward your team’s ultimate goal. A successful meeting should culminate in progress toward its objectives. This involves making decisions, assigning actionable tasks, and setting deadlines for completion. Without tangible progress, a meeting may feel like a mere exchange of words without meaningful outcomes. By focusing on progress, meetings become instrumental in achieving organizational goals.

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How to lead meetings with people in mind

The best, most effective, and productive meetings are crafted and led with people in mind. Steering meetings with a people-centric focus transforms routine gatherings into dynamic collaborative sessions. This approach revolves around recognizing and celebrating individual strengths, communication styles, and perspectives, fostering an atmosphere where diverse contributions flourish. It's not just about ticking boxes; it's about creating a space where everyone feels genuinely valued, heard, and involved.

Meeting best practices:

1. Enhance Agendas with Key Points

Sending out agendas is a pretty common practice, and very important. But take it a step further. Accompany your agendas with your key points to provide participants with essential context before the meeting. This not only aids in better preparation but also sets the stage for more meaningful discussions. Just attach some information to the invite.

2. Embrace Asynchronous Work

Incorporate asynchronous collaboration into your meeting culture. Allow participants to contribute prior points in meeting invitations, enabling a more comprehensive exploration of ideas and issues. This approach fosters a dynamic exchange of thoughts and ensures that meetings are more than just time spent in a room.

3. Directness is Key

Be direct and concise during meetings. Avoid cluttering discussions with tangents or unnecessary explanations. Clear, focused communication minimizes confusion, making the most of everyone's time. It’ll save time, money, and most importantly, your sanity.

4. Gatekeep Your Attendance List (yes, really!)

Keep your meeting attendance tailored to essential participants. Avoid overloading the room with unnecessary attendees. A more intimate setting can lead to increased engagement and a more productive discussion. Having over-packed or unnecessarily crowded meetings will end up being counterintuitive.

5. Strategic Follow-Up on Questions

While being open to questions during meetings is essential, strategic follow-ups can sometimes be more beneficial than immediate answers. This ensures that responses are thoughtful and comprehensive, fostering a deeper understanding among participants.

7. Concluding Meetings Effectively

The conclusion of a meeting is just as crucial as its beginning. Solicit honest feedback from attendees. Leave participants with a clear roadmap for moving forward.

7. Actionable Steps, Not Homework

As the previous point describes, ending with actionable roadmaps is the key to a great meeting conclusion. But don’t give the meeting participants homework; instead, focus on tangible tasks that contribute to the meeting's objectives.

8. Regularly Audit Recurring Meetings

To maintain relevance and effectiveness, periodically audit recurring meetings. Assess their impact and make adjustments to the format or frequency as needed. This practice ensures that meetings evolve with the changing needs of the team. Don’t be afraid to rethink, or even discontinue, commonly held but ineffective meetings.

9. Diverse Note-Taking Methods

Note-taking is integral to effective meetings, and various methods cater to different preferences. Whether it's a designated scribe or digital note-taking apps, embracing diversity in note-taking ensures that everyone can capture and retain essential information in a way that suits them best. Make sure that you catalog your notes in a way that is accessible to your team. What’s the point of taking notes if no one can find them? Collato makes this easy by instantly finding or summarizing your meeting notes, too!

10. Consider Personality Dynamics

Inclusive collaboration involves recognizing the dynamics between extroverted and introverted project managers. Strive for a balanced approach that involves all team members, creating an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and heard. Well crafted check-in questions are a great way to involve everyone and break the ice.

Collato for meetings

Collato is an AI-powered tool that instantly makes teams more productive Collato finds, sources, and summarizes your team’s knowledge. It can even create content and product docs based on it, too. Here are some specific ways Collato can help with meetings:

  • Find and summarize information quickly: Collato can quickly search through your company's knowledge base and find relevant information to share in meetings. This can save time and help ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Generate meeting agendas and notes: Collato can generate meeting agendas based on your company's knowledge base and past meetings. It can also take meeting notes and generate action items.
  • Summarize meeting minutes and other documents: Collato can summarize meeting minutes and other documents to help teams quickly get the key takeaways from meetings.
  • Write better content faster: Collato can help teams write better content faster by generating drafts and structure suggestions.
  • Find and share relevant resources: Collato can help teams find and share relevant resources for their meetings, such as documents, articles, and videos.

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Content Writer
Benjamin is fascinated by the intersection between artificial intelligence and the Future of Work. Ben is always researching AI advancements, professional development, and evolving workplace landscapes.