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A Facilitator’s Guide to Effective Meetings – Part Two: Tasks and Outcomes

written by: Richard Langly • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 3/30/2010

What are the differences between meeting tasks and meeting outcomes? Learn more about how to assign tasks and assess outcomes that will make your meetings as effective as possible.

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    This article will focus on a few elements: the importance of purpose-oriented meetings, the difference between a meeting task and a meeting outcome, and also delegating tasks and assigning responsibility.

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    Why Purpose is Crucial to an Effective Meeting

    Have you ever sat through a meeting and wondered why you were invited, or how the topics under discussion were not relevant to you? Have you ever walked away from a meeting with no clear idea of what was expected of you afterwards? Chances are, you have, and you were left with a negative impression. The reason for this is that the meeting had no purpose.

    Business meetings often fall into the trap of holding purposeless meetings. Sometimes this happens because a meeting has taken place every week for many years and it is simply habit for everyone to turn up, talk shop for a couple of hours and then head home. Other times, an ill-prepared facilitator has called a meeting but not properly thought about the reason behind it. Whatever the reason, purposeless meetings are a waste of time, and as the maxim goes, time is money.

    Purpose is a key characteristic of effective meetings because it unites everyone there behind a common cause. There should be no question why the meeting has been called. As a facilitator, your first exercise in preparing a meeting should be to work out exactly what the reason behind the meeting is. If you have difficulty doing this, then perhaps a meeting is not the most effective way of reaching your goal.

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    Tasks and Outcomes

    Recording Tasks During a Meeting 

    When you have established the purpose for a meeting, assigning tasks and assessing outcomes becomes a lot easier. Let’s explore what the terms mean.


    A task is an action assigned to somebody at the meeting; a job they must do to help achieve the purpose of the meeting. As a facilitator, it is your job to ensure the tasks are assigned. Many people will volunteer for tasks, but occasionally you will have to delegate – especially when it may not be for something particularly glamorous!


    An outcome essentially describes the result of a successfully completed task – the knock-on effect, if you will. For example, you might have assigned a task of compiling the previous year’s payroll figures. The outcome would then be that you have a dataset from which to work on next year’s budget. The difference between a meeting task and a meeting outcome can be unclear at first glance, but essentially it is a tool enabling you to break down an overall goal into its component parts.

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    Delegating Tasks and Assigning Responsibility

    One characteristic of a successful facilitator is the ability to confidently delegate tasks and ensure they are completed to a set deadline. As a facilitator, you are often also the manager of at least some of the attendees of your meeting, and you should only have invited people for whom the meeting would be relevant.

    The most crucial element when assigning tasks is making sure that the following three things are recorded in the minutes:

    • the task itself
    • the person to whom it has been allocated
    • the deadline for completion of the task

    With the assigned tasks properly minuted, the “taskee" has the onus placed upon them to do what has been asked of them. From a management point of view, assigning less crucial tasks to junior staff members in this manner is a great way to increase their sense of responsibility and of the value they add to your team.

    Of course, it is crucial to follow up on the assigned tasks and expected outcomes at the next meeting, and it is there that comprehensive minutes will prove their worth. This will be discussed further in a future article in this series.

A Facilitator’s Guide to Effective Meetings

This multi-part series, A Facilitator’s Guide to Effective Meetings, offers advice on how to conduct an effective meeting that can be utilized by managers from all backgrounds and disciplines. It's particularly useful for project managers who need to keep their team productive and on track.
  1. A Facilitator’s Guide to Effective Meetings – Part One: Introduction
  2. A Facilitator’s Guide to Effective Meetings – Part Two: Tasks and Outcomes
  3. A Facilitator’s Guide to Effective Meetings – Part Three: Agendas and Minutes
  4. A Facilitator’s Guide to Effective Meetings – Part Four: Time-Keeping and Organization