Manage Meetings Like a Conductor

Manage Meetings Like a Conductor

When you hear an orchestra playing perfectly, thank the conductor as well as the musicians. The conductor works to synchronize the sections, players, and instruments. Becoming a good conductor doesn’t happen overnight – it takes practice. Becoming a good meeting manager requires similar skills. Managers need to be able to engage all participants while staying on task and staying at a reasonable pace. If you want to improve your meeting management skills, take your inspiration from the conductor.

While tech innovation introduced helpful functionality like videoconferencing and screen sharing, you still need to practice clear communication before, during, and after your meetings. Misunderstandings with staff can contribute to missed deadlines, poor client relationships, or other errors that may lead to a malpractice claim.

It may be helpful to break down your meeting to its components to find where you can improve, much like a conductor would.



An orchestra has many players—all of whom rehearse with sheet music before the actual performance. The sheet music prepares the group for a productive rehearsal by laying out what’s ahead and what they need. By considering these tips in context of your meeting, you can encourage attendees to be productive and enhance clarity among your team.
  • Decide the Purpose - Think about the purpose of the meeting. Is this a team check-in? Do you need to report any updates or make decisions? Could an email provide an update instead? Does it need to be a recurring meeting?

  • Write an Agenda - Draft an agenda. Be sure to leave room for new business/questions at the end. Distribute the agenda to your team before the meeting.

  • Ask for Input - Check if the team has questions or new business.

  • Assign Roles - If the meeting is large, formal, or meets infrequently, it may be helpful to assign roles such as facilitator or notetaker. If it’s a hybrid meeting, make sure the notetaker attends in person to avoid gaps due to technical difficulties. If the meeting is solely remote, some programs have incorporated notetaking or task-assignment features.

If you are conducting a hybrid meeting, you will need to set up the technology for remote attendees. Check the accuracy of any links before the meeting and arrive early to ensure any necessary technology is ready and working. If you can, have someone in the room test the link, video quality, and sound.


Timing is almost as important as content. Without the conductor, individual players’ pace can change the tempo of a piece of music or even derail it entirely. As the meeting leader, you need to keep everyone on task and focused. This will help ensure you get through the agenda in a reasonable time.
  • Establish a Time - Make sure everyone clearly understands how long the meeting will be. For attendees who may think your time is flexible, a set end time can set a helpful boundary.

  • Decide to Move On - It can be difficult to judge when to move on to a different topic, table a discussion, or dive deeper into the issue at hand. One tip is to remind the attendees of the meeting’s purpose. If the only goal is to provide an update, suggest writing down questions to discuss later. If you need a decision, schedule a separate meeting to address unfinished action items.

  • Have an Alarm - If you need to, set an alarm, create a reminder for yourself, or ask someone to help you monitor the time. Attendees usually appreciate sticking to the set meeting time.


In addition to rehearsing an entire piece, conductors also stop and work with players on specific sections for improvement. To prepare for similar moments, think about how you can ensure all meeting participants stay engaged toward the overall goals.
  • Assign Tasks - Send post-meeting notes summarizing any decisions made and who is responsible for doing what. List all the next steps in one place to make it easier for people to see what they’ve committed to and to do it. Making the next steps visible to everyone on the team keeps communication open. When the team members complete action items, everyone can see the matter’s updated status.

  • Follow Up - Remember those tasks you assigned at the last meeting? Circle back to them! If there is no action post-meeting, you may need to identify and address a bottleneck.

  • Track Progress - Check how well your team is acting on next steps. Ask yourself whether the meeting achieved its goals and get the team’s input as well.

  • Plant Questions - You may need to plant questions or ask someone you trust to prepare a question or two. This will get the ball rolling during any uncomfortable lulls in response to new information.​​​​

  • Share TopicsYou may want to divide topics among other attendees. If someone is leading a project, have them give an update. If this is a regular staff meeting, consider inviting a guest speaker to present on a related topic.

  • Prepare for Dissenting OpinionsRemind yourself of conflict resolution techniques if you anticipate a serious discussion about a weighty subject or a controversial issue. Try balancing heavier and lighter topics when drafting your agenda.

  • Keep the Tone LightRegular staff meetings are an opportunity to build relationships. Prepare a compliment or two for your team. Pre-meeting small talk or icebreaker questions can help the group relax before diving into the content.

Well-run meetings maintain clear communication with your team, which can avoid potential malpractice issues. However, efficient meetings require planning, preparation, and practice. So, take your cue from the conductor, and manage your meetings as though an orchestra awaits you. Your audience will thank you!

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