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11 Tips for Running Meetings That Aren't Totally Terrible

Oct 30, 2014

startupcollective

This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Question: What's one best practice for running a successful Meetup-style group for entrepreneurs?

Plan in Advance

"The best practice to run a successful meetup group for entrepreneurs is taking time to plan the event in advance. I’ve found that it is best to plan at least three to four weeks in advance so there is enough time to work out all of the details, find a venue and ensure every entrepreneur attending the meetup-style group is able to make arrangements for the day." Jay Wu, A Forever Recovery

Set the Tone Immediately

"Create the culture you're hoping to have for your group at the first event. Do this by stacking the room with your contacts who know what you have in mind, and let the word spread from there. I run several such events, and by doing this very thing, I've been able to grow them exponentially both locally and around the country -- all true to the same values and mission. " — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Focus on Relationships

"Entrepreneurs are excited to be part of something that is growing and becoming grand, so tap in to those desires by helping us create relationships with other dreamers, people we can share with, learn from and with whom we can explore new possibilities. Focus less on being cool and more on being human." — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Make It Exclusive

"Make your group invite-only so it's more exclusive and to ensure quality control. Many of the best entrepreneurs I know in London don't bother with general meetups anymore, and by creating an invite-only group with a strong core, you will generate a lot of interest from those aspiring membership. Plus, knowing your niche is very important in today's crowded landscape." — Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me

Lay out Helpful Assignments

"The hardest part of a meetup is the first 15 minutes. You want to balance structure with freedom so that people don't run to the bathroom to avoid the exercise. Lay out a couple challenges that have clear personal benefits for attendees but no deadline. A goal could be to learn about three new valuable apps or find two people for whom you can make introductions. Make it about helping one another." — Heidi Allstop, Spill

Get to Your Venue Early

"Get to your venue early, and make sure everything is in order. This includes making sure enough seating is available and ensuring that all audio/visual equipment works properly. One of your goals in running a meetup is to impress, and if the meeting encounters a hitch, you're unlikely to achieve that goal." — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Get Startups to Demo

"It's the best way to invite someone to see what your meetup is all about. Plus, it's a nearly instant way to make it valuable for them. The audience hears what they're working on, wants to hear more, and suddenly, there's a family of people there every time." — Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

Give Everyone a Name Tag

"I love meeting people, but I'm horrible at remembering names. If everyone has a name tag, then it's much easier to make introductions and build relationships. Bonus points if you encourage everyone to include his or her Twitter handle, business name or 'I'm interested in...' as well." — Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems

Create Clear Goals and Expectations

"Many people join communities because they attend an event from that community. Once they do, the organizer needs to work to keep them there. Providing a clear mission statement and adhering to it is essential in growing and maintaining the community. If the goal is education events, don't just do happy hours. People join because of what you offer up front, and keeping that as a baseline is key." — Aron Schoenfeld, Do It In Person LLC

Organize Specific Discussion Topics

"There's nothing worse than having a meetup with no direction. Groups that don't have focus will fizzle and die very quickly. This can be through the form of talks, events, etc. If you give everyone something to talk about, it creates an environment of learning and meaningful connections, which is ultimately the purpose of a meetup." — James Simpon, GoldFire Studios

Be Confidential

"Start every meetup with an explicit statement that everything shared within the group should stay within the group. Knowing that the discussions are confidential can help founders open up and share their real problems, such as running out of cash or dealing with a difficult employee. And they can learn from the entrepreneurs who have gone through these situations before." — Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Inc

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