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Words That Guarantee Better Meetings

In a communications class this week, I worked with some managers and directors who recognized their many meetings were not as productive as they should be.

Part of the problem was that their meetings did not have a stated purpose with specific outcomes. Sure, they knew they were getting together to share information, plan, or solve problems–or maybe all three. But they did not plan, start, or conduct their meetings with a focus on the results they wanted.

What does their search for meeting success have to do with business writing? This: All they needed were a few words to focus their meetings on results.


Let’s say the Spanish language committee at a company wants to hire a new Spanish instructor. One item on their meeting agenda might be:

  • Discuss interview questions.

How would the group know they were successful in their discussion?

If the agenda included just one additional sentence, they would know when they had reached their goal:

When the meeting attendees agreed on the interview questions, they would know they had accomplished something.

Here’s an example from a planning meeting:

  • Agenda item: Discuss plans for trade show.
  • Outcomes: (1) Confirm list of activities. (2) Identify who will coordinate each activity. (3) Decide on essential action items for this month.

The words outcomes and results guarantee better meetings. When you add them to your agenda, it’s much easier to keep the meeting on task, especially when you review the outcomes or results you want at the start of your meeting. An agenda item like “discuss” can take a group anywhere, but “Confirm a list” and “Decide on actions” give everyone a focus. And they make it easy to leave a meeting smiling.

You can also guarantee high-value meetings by writing efficient meeting notes and minutes. Learn how in my online self-study course Meeting Notes Made Easy.

I wish you productive meetings!

Syntax Training


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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