Five Tips for Running Effective Meetings
Long, unproductive meetings can result in lost revenue for your business, setbacks in project schedules, or can simply ruin your day by putting you off your schedule.
If you are responsible for facilitating a meeting, whether it be a small staff meeting, a committee meeting, or a meeting of a very large group, there are several strategies you can use to ensure your meeting will be productive and run smoothly.
1. Have a set agenda: The most important component of running an effective meeting is having a set agenda. “A set agenda allows attendees to stay focused and stay on purpose. “In order for the meeting to be productive, you have to start on time, play by the structured guidelines and end on time”
An agenda sets the goals of the meeting and can also be used to set the pace of the meeting and how much time is allotted for each item. It can be used as a tool to cut off discussion when it is time to move on to a new topic. Request agenda items and prioritize the agenda items prior to the meeting.
Most importantly, though, an agenda forces you to think about and prepare for the meeting in advance. “Don’t just wing it. “Your attendees can tell when you’ve come in unprepared, and being unprepared and disorganized fuels the potential for having an unproductive meeting.”
2. Know who is attending the meeting: The more familiar you are with who is attending the meeting and why they are attending, the better prepared you will be to facilitate the meeting and keep it moving forward. “Knowing their names can help you address them directly, either to involve them in conversation or to keep the conversation moving along. “Knowing why they are attending can alert you to what their concerns are and what items they are likely to be most interested in or passionate about.”
Encouraging your attendees to state why they are present at the start of a meeting is a good way to make introductions and to involve all attendees from the beginning. It should also be made clear that all attendees have the opportunity to participate.
3. Keep the conversation moving forward: In addition to adhering to a schedule set by an agenda, there are techniques that can be used to keep a conversation moving forward.
Whoever introduced the agenda item should speak first. “Starting clockwise left of the speaker each attendee can speak on the item or ‘pass.’ Opportunity for response, rebuttal or questions could happen on the next turn around the table.”
4. Prevent one person from dominating the conversation and involve those who are not contributing: There are several strategies that can be used* to keep the conversation from being dominated by one person. How you handle the situation will depend on your own style and comfort level.
You can be very direct and informal if you’re comfortable with that. Using people’s names and making eye contact can help hint to them that it’s time to move on, is one way. You can also use several techniques that involve just moving around the room. If someone is dominating the conversation and seems to have made their point, you can simply place a hand on their shoulder to indicate that it’s time for someone else to talk.
Other strategies include putting a time limit on participants’ comments or having attendees agree to abide to guidelines before the meeting.
“Introduce the written structured guidelines of DIM-WYT, Don’t Interrupt Me – Wait Your Turn”. “People interrupt for a variety of reasons. Whether they are impolite, disrespectful or merely enthusiastic, the results are the same: frustration abounds and the purpose of the meeting is sidetracked if not entirely derailed. Wait Your Turn indicates that everyone will have a chance to speak – in fact, everyone at the meeting is encouraged to participate. People who are normally reticent can have their say and everyone will stay focused on the issue under discussion.”
5. Make your enthusiasm contagious: Employees are often required to attend meetings they are not necessarily enthusiastic about. “The easiest way to get enthusiasm from your attendees, is to show your enthusiasm as the facilitator. You have to make your own excitement contagious. Getting your participants excited about the meeting topic can help generate more ideas and results from your meeting.
* Call a Greater Baltimore Chamber of Commerce Executive Member today to learn more.