By Kim L. Clark
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 and cooperation 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 part of the reason I’ve chosen this path is because I’ve been forced to attend so many meetings that have been a huge waste of time that years later, the bad memories continue to haunt me.
Respectfully, I offer suggestions on how to run meetings that will make you look good, from pre-meeting preparation to your opening remarks and the adjournment.
I. Create an agenda
Participants want to know what to expect and understand why they’ve been asked to attend.
II. Arrange a convenient date, time and place
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.
III. Reserve meeting room and A/V equipment
It is advisable to check the availability of the preferred meeting location first, before specifics are confirmed. Next, quickly reserve the room and the audiovisual equipment that you will use (screen, microphone, podium, LCD for Power Point, etc.).
IV. Invite stakeholders only
Participants want to feel that their presence at the meeting is crucial to the development of a resolution. Be selective in whom you include; most meetings should not be open forums. Invite stakeholders— those who care about the outcome of the matter under discussion and are willing and able to contribute to its resolution. If food will be served, place the order, based on the initial RSVPs.
V. 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. Just before you send out the reminder, confirm that all meeting equipment and supplies will be in the room. Confirm the RSVP count for the food.
VI. Verify that A/V equipment works
Audiovisual equipment loves to malfunction. On meeting day, arrive 45-60 minutes early and do a test run. 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 the 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 to discuss subjects that may be worthwhile, but would be best discussed in another venue. Should this occur, thank the person for bringing it up, since it’s probably related to the main topic, but state that time must be devoted to the agenda and other matters would benefit from discussion in another meeting.
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.
Kim L. Clark is a strategy and marketing consultant who brings agile skills to the for-profit and not-for-profit organization leaders for whom she works. Please visit http://polishedprofessionalsboston.com to learn how your organization can achieve mission-critical goals when you work with Kim.