How to have impactful meetings

In a previous article, I gave you a question that can cut through the noise in meetings:

“What do we need to do to move this forward?”

By asking it, you can identify what needs to be done to drive things forward.

It’s not time to rest on your laurels, however. Because that alone won’t create an impact.

Not unless you take the second step.

Making People Accountable

I've been on the board of Professional Speakers Australia since 2021.

Sitting in all those board meetings has taught me that the most important part of getting things done is the action register.

If an action item is allocated to you, your name, the action, and a deadline all go on the register.

At the next meeting, the board runs through the register. If your action item hasn’t been done, you need to explain why.

Then, it’s brought up again at the following meeting.

It’s a way to keep board members accountable.

But really, it’s a way to make sure the board has a real impact.

Ideas Are Not Impact

I mean, think about it.

If you have a great idea and it doesn’t get implemented, does it have any impact?


Ideas on their own don’t have any impact – no matter how brilliant they are.

For that, you need action.

Steps to Creating Impact

You’re in the meeting. You’ve asked your cut-through question. The team identified the next step.

Now you need to make sure someone actually takes that step.

If no one volunteers to do it, ask who’s going to get it done.

When the action has been allocated to someone, agree on a timeline with them.

Write it all down and review it at the end of the meeting. Make sure everyone’s on the same page about what will be done, who will do it, and when.

Then, send out an email with the information.

Now you’re ready to follow up during the next meeting.

If it’s a virtual meeting, even better:

"Let me share my screen with the action items from our last meeting."

Couldn’t be simpler.

There’s no hiding. Nothing but pure accountability.

Most importantly, things will actually get done.

It might take a few weeks before people realize they’re being held accountable. They’re probably not used to it. So give them some leeway for the first meeting or two.

It’s fine. You’re playing the long game.

This is chess, not checkers.

Are You a Driver or a Passenger?

Right now, you might be thinking, “But Alan, who am I to start directing meetings like this? No one assigns actions or sends meeting notes at my job.”

That’s okay. Even if you’re the most junior person at the meeting, you can drive accountability and have an impact.

Start with your own meeting items.

When the discussion happens, ask what the action is.

Then, agree on who will do it and when.

Then say, "Great! I'll email you later."

A project manager at Asahi had a phrase I love:

“If not you, who?”

You don't need permission to do this.

If you feel like you do, here: I, Alan, am granting you permission.

There. Now you can start driving action.

See, most people are passengers.

They’re not all that interested in moving things forward. If the meeting ends without any action items, that’s fine by them. It just means one less item on their to-do list.

If you want to have an impact, you need to be a driver, not a passenger.

You have to get things done and influence stakeholders.

That starts with a question, then a concrete action plan.

If no one is making that plan, it’s up to you to do it.

Grab the Last Word

Here’s an extra tip: grab the last word in the meeting.

When you hear “Any questions?”

Answer with, “Yep, can I just run through the actions to clarify them please?”

Do that and you’ll be the driver.

Management will take notice. They love when people take the opportunity to lead, to influence, to get things done.

Remember, there is an opportunity in every meeting - even the bad ones.

In every meeting, you can cut through the fluff. You can identify the next step. You can hold people accountable and have a real impact.

After all, if not you, who?