Meeting guidelines and ground rules are basic tools for successful meetings

Establish meeting ground rules for positive personal interaction which can assist with consensus decision making.

Think of the meetings you have participated in over the past year. Did you feel like a valuable member of the team? Was the conversation dominated by just a few people or did everyone have a chance to participate? Were your ideas asked for, or better yet, were your ideas considered and thoroughly discussed?

There are simple ways to make sure that everyone feels open to contribute during meetings, that decisions are made in the best interest of the organization, and all attending are respectfully treated as true team members who are essential to the decision-making process. Establishing meeting guidelines and ground rules will lay the framework for positive personal interaction and better group decisions.

How do you establish these meeting rules? Simply ask each committee or board member for one ground rule that they believe is important to follow to help make meetings more productive. Write these on a flip-chart pad so that everyone can see the list. Continue round-robin style with one idea from each person until all are satisfied that the list is complete. Review the entire list of ground rules and agree as a team to follow them to guide and improve the meeting process. Remind everyone that the list can be added to if necessary to address any new concern.

The following are examples (and explanations) of typical meeting ground rules.

Assume responsibility for yourself and any commitments that you make to the organization. If you no longer have time to commit to the organization, then you should resign your position on the committee or board for someone else.

Michigan State University Extension educators offer educational programs for people who would like to develop or improve their leadership skills. To contact an expert in your area, visit or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

For other articles on successfully running effective meetings, see: