Master the art of in-person one-on-one meetings: a comprehensive guide

Discover how to run successful and engaging in-person one-on-one meetings with our comprehensive guide, including preparation tips, agendas, and effective communication strategies.

Craft Author: Tom Norman
Tom Norman
Two people having an in-person one on one meeting.

Many of us know the feeling of being in a one-on-one meeting that seems to go nowhere. While this happens often, it's far from inevitable. Done right, in-person one-on-one meetings can turn into powerful catalysts that energize your work environment. These sessions go beyond mere progress reports; they offer a dynamic platform for mutual dialogue.

For managers, these sessions offer an invaluable window into team dynamics, project roadblocks, and the general pulse of your workplace. For employees, it's not just another calendar invite—it's a platform for voicing concerns, seeking feedback, and discussing career aspirations. This focused interaction offers a chance to align on project goals, troubleshoot challenges, and even share lighter moments that can strengthen your professional relationship.

Ready to transform your one-on-one meetings into a truly rewarding experience? Whether it's crafting the perfect agenda or becoming a pro at communication, this complete guide has all the essentials you need. Let's get started!

Preparing for an in-person one-on-one meeting

  • Setting the meeting agenda: Before you step into that meeting room, make sure both parties have collaborated to prepare an agenda. Having input from both sides ensures that the meeting serves everyone's needs and signifies mutual respect for each other's time, making for an efficient and productive discussion..
  • Identifying discussion topics and goals: Don't limit your agenda to tasks and deadlines. Make room for topics like career development, challenges faced, and maybe even what's happening during the weekend! Tailoring your discussion points shows that you care about the person, not just their productivity. The aim is to have a well-rounded conversation that touches on work, personal development, and even some lighter topics to ease the mood.
  • Preparing materials and resources: Got important files or progress charts? Don't hesitate to include them! These resources enhance the quality of your conversations and help you get to the heart of the matter quickly. 
  • Selecting an appropriate venue: One advantage of in-person meetings is the ability to pick a comfortable, quiet space free from digital distractions. The environment can significantly impact the flow of conversation. Choose a private, quiet area where both of you can speak openly and focus solely on the meeting at hand.

In-person one-on-one meeting  templates

Build the foundations for meaningful conversations

Encourage open and honest communication

You'll want to nurture an environment where both you and your colleague feel comfortable sharing. Phrase your sentences to welcome dialogue, not monologues. You can use prompts like, "How do you feel about this?" or "What are your thoughts?" to encourage your colleague to open up. Remember, the key to open dialogue is to listen as much as you talk.

Create a safe space for feedback and insights

Show that you're open to receiving feedback, and the other person will likely reciprocate. This builds a virtuous cycle where both parties learn and grow. Make it clear that this is a no-judgment zone where all insights are valued, whether they're compliments or constructive criticisms. Reassure the other person that their perspectives will be taken seriously and can genuinely shape the conversation and the work ahead.

3 tips for better communication

It is hugely beneficial to master the art of communication for anyone hosting a one-on-one meeting. These techniques ensure not just a conversation but a meaningful exchange that can drive action and build stronger relationships.

  • Listen actively and respond empathetically

Lean in, nod, and ask questions to show you're fully engaged. When you listen actively, it encourages the other person to speak up too. Active listening goes beyond just hearing; it's about understanding and interpreting the message being conveyed. Pay attention to the speaker's body language and tone, as they can offer additional context that helps you respond empathetically.

  • Ask open-ended and probing questions

Questions like "How do you feel about your current project?" can spark insightful conversations that can't be achieved through yes-or-no questions. Open-ended questions invite detailed responses and encourage a deeper dialogue. To dive even further, you can follow up with probing questions like, "Can you tell me more about that?" or "What specifically makes you feel that way?"

  • Provide constructive feedback and guidance

Be honest but considerate in your feedback. Phrase it in a way that shows you're on the same team, aiming for the same goals. Use the "SBI Model" (Situation, Behavior, Impact) to make your feedback actionable. For example, "During our team meeting last week (situation), I noticed you took the initiative to solve a problem (behavior). That had a positive impact on our project (impact).”

Setting and managing expectations

Establishing realistic goals for the one-on-one meeting

Start the meeting by being clear about its purpose: to check in and assess how the employee is feeling, evaluate feedback, and identify any blockers. Setting this focus guides the conversation and provides clear benchmarks, ensuring that you stay on topic and make the most of your time. It also sets the stage for measuring the meeting's success later.

Regularly reviewing progress and adjusting goals as needed

Make it a habit to revisit the goals set during previous meetings. This keeps everyone accountable and allows you to celebrate small wins along the way. Regular check-ins on progress ensure that you're both aligned and make it easier to identify when adjustments are needed. It turns the one-on-one meeting into a dynamic tool for continuous improvement.

Discussing professional development and future opportunities

Don't just focus on the here and now; take some time to discuss the road ahead. Whether it's new projects or career advancements, these talks can be incredibly motivating. Exploring future opportunities not only energizes the conversation but also provides a broader context that can inform present tasks and responsibilities.

End the meeting with clear takeaways and action items

Summarizing key points and agreements

Before wrapping up, summarize what was discussed and what needs to be done next. This ensures everyone's on the same page and leaves no room for ambiguity. It's a good idea to jot down these summary points, so they can serve as a quick reference for anyone who needs a recap later on. Use Craft's one on one template for an easy way to keep track of what was discussed. 

Assigning tasks and setting deadlines for follow-up

Record action items and deadlines as this establishes a clear path forward. Specifying who is responsible for each task eliminates future confusion and adds another level of accountability.

Scheduling future in-person one-on-one meetings

While you're both there, why not set the date for the next catch-up? This shows that you're committed to regular and meaningful conversations. Future meetings give you something to prepare for and provide a regular forum for ongoing dialogue, making them an essential part of your work relationship.

Monitoring progress and measuring success

Evaluate individual and team contributions. Use one-on-one meetings as a lens to see how each team member's efforts are contributing to larger objectives. After several sessions, you may want to collect feedback to understand the tangible impacts these conversations are having on both individual performance and team synergy.

Act on feedback. Instead of just tweaking the meeting setup, use gathered feedback to implement broader changes that boost individual productivity and collective success. Whether it involves modifying workflows or adopting new tools, the aim is to improve the overall effectiveness and happiness of your team.

Recognize achievements and milestones. Each meeting is an opportunity to celebrate individual wins that contribute to collective goals. Highlighting these accomplishments not only boosts morale but also aligns everyone more closely with the company's vision and objectives.


Mastering in-person one-on-one meetings elevates your work environment, fosters strong professional relationships, and drives individual and team performance. From open communication to actionable insights, these meetings are essential platforms for dialogue, growth, and achievement. By employing the best practices and techniques outlined in this guide, you'll be better equipped to create meaningful conversations that truly resonate. So, take that next meeting as an opportunity to not only discuss project updates but also to connect, inspire, and elevate your professional journey.

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