The ability to run a good meeting is widely regarded as a hallmark of a competent leader. Meetings are important forums for communication and the development of goals and strategies that will move an organization forward. When designed and conducted correctly, they promote understanding, cooperation and bonding and lay the groundwork for productive and satisfying teamwork. Yet unfortunately, many meetings are useless time-wasters that result less in action and more in frustration.
I facilitate meetings for a living (mostly strategy planning, at for-profit and not-for-profit organizations) and I think the reason I’ve chosen this path is because I’ve been forced to attend so many meetings that have been a complete insult, such a huge waste of time that years later, the bad memories continue to haunt me.
Respectfully, I offer readers suggestions on how to run a meeting that will make you look good, from pre-meeting preparation, to your opening remarks and the conclusion.
I. Create an agenda
People want to know what to expect and understand why they’ve been asked to attend.
II. Invite stakeholders only
People want to feel that their presence at the meeting is crucial to the development of a resolution. Be selective in who you include; most meetings should not be open forums. Invite those who care about the outcome of the subject under discussion and are willing and able to contribute to its resolution.
III. Arrange a convenient date, place and time
Send an email and propose two or three possible meeting dates and times. If there are any on your invite list who must be in attendance, clear the dates with them first, then invite a wider circle.
IV. Send a meeting reminder, attach the agenda and hand-outs
Two or three days before the meeting, send out a reminder and attach the agenda and meeting hand-outs.
V. Confirm the meeting room and A/V equipment
It is advisable to first check the availability of the preferred meeting location and once specifics are confirmed, quickly reserve the room and audiovisual equipment that you will use (sreen, microphone, podium, LCD for Power Point, etc.). Just before you send out your meeting reminder, confirm that what you’ll need will be in the room.
VI. Verify that A/V equipment works
Audiovisual equipment loves to malfunction. Do a test run and de-bug the system if necessary. Your mission is to make the transition from participant arrival to the meeting’s start seamless.
VII. Bring hard copies of the agenda and hand-outs
Precious few people will print out the meeting materials and bring them along.
VIII. Start on time
Be respectful of participant’s time. Starting 5 minutes late is OK, start sooner if all have arrived.
IX. Welcome and purpose statement
Thank everyone for making the time to attend and then state what the meeting will help to achieve. Keep the purpose statement simple, ideally something that can be stated in two or three sentences, tops.
X. Encourage participation
Bringing out good ideas is what meetings are all about: capitalizing on the creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity that group synergy can produce.
XI. De-fuse agitators and hijackers
Meeting hogs are to be discouraged. There may be someone in the room (alas, perhaps an ally) who is genius at pulling the meeting off-agenda and dragging it into the weeds on subjects that may be worthwhile, but would be best discussed in another venue. Should such a statement be made, thank the person for bringing it up, since it’s probably related to the topic, but simply state that time must be devoted to the agenda and other off-shoots will benefit from discussion at another time and forum.
XII. Sum up and end on time
Whenever possible, end the meeting on time and early is even better. Most of all, achieve the meeting objectives. Review and confirm all action items and individual or team responsibilities. Within a week, send the meeting minutes to all who attended (and maybe a higher-up who should be kept in the loop), taking care to put all agreements and time tables in writing.
Thanks for reading,