You know that meetings are critical to achieving your organization’s goals. Chances are, you also know that meetings are rarely conducted in the timeliest manner possible, and that they may not result in a consensus that meets the desired outcome. These are costly truths for many companies – but they can be resolved (even revolutionized) with strong leadership from someone skilled at the ‘5 W’s’ of successful meeting facilitation:

  1. Who (is involved)
  2. What (is the point)
  3. When (will it happen)
  4. Where (will it happen)
  5. Why (should your stakeholders care)

Strong meeting leadership starts with a predetermined goal that can be simply defined. The three most common goals for a meeting include brainstorming, planning, and decision-making. Your company is a brain trust of your employees’ great ideas. You only need facilitation to inspire creativity, productive discussion, preparation, and reflection on outcomes.

The 5 W’s of Good Meetings

To see your meeting through from planning to success, tap into the time-tested ‘5 W’s’ approach.


While it may be tempting to overuse the cc: option in an email, choosing who to invite to a meeting needs to be a carefully-made intentional decision. First look at numbers. Experts like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos suggest a “2 pizza rule.” Some meetings may require larger attendance, but in general, a productive team session should require only two pizzas.

With the number of attendees top of mind, think about who from your team can best assist you in achieving the goal of your meeting. Those key people are who you want to invite.


Before sending out the meeting invite, be prepared to explain your meeting plan. An agenda is important but try not to stay confined to template agendas you have used in the past. Instead, outline your overall goal and be sure everyone understands it before the meeting.

As you prepare for the meeting, keep in mind who your attendees will be. Have your agendas in the past outlined items to discuss the meeting’s order or flow? If not, prioritizing those items can help. Your priorities may vary depending on attendees and how you best communicate with them. If it is still difficult to order these priorities, facilitation training can give anyone willing to commit themselves to the program the proven tools for successful facilitation.


When picking a location, consider somewhere with the least amount of distraction. You have probably sat in a few meetings where passersby through a window or even distraction from a computer, have extended the intended meeting time or prevented a successful outcome. Try to prepare for those unnecessary disruptions. The location of a meeting also allows for innovative tactics. You might want a place that offers helpful technology for notetaking. Or you may be interested in testing out a standing meeting depending on your attendees. Environment can make a huge difference. 


Timing is an invaluable factor when facilitating a meeting. Experts recommend avoiding Monday mornings when team members can be engrossed in catching up with emails or loose ends from the previous week. Similarly, avoid Fridays when focus is easily drawn to quickly finishing work in preparation for the weekend.

Connie Williams, CMO & Chief Knowledge Officers at Syneticsworld, recommends a shift in the common duration of meetings from an hour to 30-40 minutes. Imagine hitting your meeting goal in such a compressed amount of time! By lessening attendance to key invites and prioritizing the meeting in a conducive environment, this timeframe can be possible.


With everything else in place, it is time to return to your original goal. There is a strategic transformation process that occurs during that (30-60 minute) time when all the attendees need to reach the desired consensus. Do not wait for the last five minutes to address that consensus. Every facet of the meeting should keep your original goal and priorities in mind.