Team lead or not, have you ever been tasked with leading a meeting before? Most people to whom this task falls, tend not to handle it properly as they lack the strategies for how to run effective meetings.
A productive meeting is a powerful tool for getting things rolling and done.
However, it’s not surprising that not all leaders seem to know how to run effective meetings.
A lot of meetings lack proper planning and good execution.
People leave such meetings feeling that they’ve wasted their time.
Many studies give thought-provoking information about how meetings are typically conducted in the workplace.
An informational document prepared by InfoCom, Greenwich, CT shows that the typical American middle-level professional worker goes to more than 60 meetings a month.
The same document shows that people who attend meetings think that only half of the meeting time is spent productively.
The other half of the time is spent on unproductive chatter.
This, of course, is due to the meeting not being run effectively as it should be.
CBS News says that 39% of people who attend meetings tend to doze off during meetings.
As a leader, you owe it to yourself, as well as to your staff, to see to it that the meetings you initiate and run are productive, effective and efficient.
Leading a meeting is a learnable skill.
You can learn what it takes to run effective team meetings.
Once you learn important strategies for managing meetings, you can change the way your team members feel about meetings.
You can make them feel excited about attending meetings.
They will no longer dread meetings or see them as a total waste of time.
Having a productive meeting is to make good use of resources.
You use time wisely.
You get people to participate and contribute good ideas and suggestions.
People leave effective team meetings feeling energized and inspired.
They feel that they’ve accomplished something.
They feel that they’ve set things in motion so plans can be put into action.
Meeting Strategies That Effective Leaders Use
What are the things essential for holding effective meetings?
Identify Your Objectives
Don’t set a meeting if you don’t have anything concrete and important to discuss.
If you don’t know what you’re setting a meeting for, don’t call for one.
This should go without saying.
However, it will surprise you to know that many bosses hold meetings without a clear sense of purpose.
Every meeting should serve a purpose.
It should be able to bring about the desired outcome.
When you call a meeting, you should know exactly what you want the meeting to achieve.
The meeting objectives should be clear in your mind.
Are you calling a meeting to …
- Generate ideas?
- Help you reach a decision?
- Make announcements or inform people about something?
- Gather inputs on some plans that are on the drawing board?
These are some legitimate reasons for calling a meeting.
Your objectives define your end result.
They illustrate exactly what it is that you want your group to accomplish by the end of the meeting.
All the things that happen during the meeting should further your objectives. If they don’t do this, they are needless. They shouldn’t be on your agenda.
When you have set down your objectives, you can then add more details to the contents of the meeting.
You can decide on the activities and topics to be discussed.
You can prepare the agenda.
Prepare An Agenda And Let People Know About It
An agenda is a list of activities that you will undertake or topics that you will discuss during your meeting.
An agenda enables you to set a direction for your discussion.
It ensures that the discussion does not wander off its course.
Vague intentions will not work.
If you want a meeting to end on a productive note, you have to start it the right way – with a point-form list of the things you need to discuss.
It is important to let people know ahead of time what the agenda for the meeting is.
There are different ways to do this.
You can prepare a written summary and give the people you want to attend a handout.
You can write the agenda on the bulletin board.
Also, you can call key people into your office for a preliminary meeting to discuss the agenda.
You can email the agenda.
The important thing is to let people know at the outset what is going to happen during the meeting.
Inform your staff about the agenda at least a day before the meeting.
Include background information if you can.
The information will help your people prepare for the meeting.
It will help them prepare their ideas and suggestions.
When everybody comes prepared, the meeting is likely to be more fruitful and dynamic.
When you prepare the agenda, keep the following in mind:
- Priorities – What important things should you cover in the meeting?
- Results – What do you hope to achieve at the meeting?
- Participants – Who should you invite to the meeting so that you get the results you want? What information do they need to prepare for the meeting?
- Sequence – How should the meeting progress? What order should you use to cover the topics?
- Timing – How much time should you allot for each topic?
- Time and Date – When should you set the meeting for?
- Place – Where should you hold the meeting?
Choose The People Who Should Attend The Meeting
It is important to choose the right people to come to your meeting.
It can make or break the meeting’s success.
If you are unable to invite a needed key executive, for example, you may have a hard time making significant decisions during the meeting.
How do you choose which people to invite to the meeting you need to run for it to be effective?
If you’re setting the meeting to come up with solutions to problems, choose the people who have the knowledge and expertise about the problems.
Choose the ones who are likely to be good sources of information.
If you’re setting a meeting to announce some changes, invite the individuals who will be affected by the expected changes.
If you expect assistance, suggestions, or advice, invite people who have the capabilities.
Otherwise, the people you invite will just feel that they are wasting their time by attending the meeting.
Ask Everybody To Prepare For The Meeting In Advance
Ask your staff to prepare for the meeting.
If the meeting is called to solve a problem, ask your team to come up with workable solutions or suggestions before the meeting.
If the meeting is called to discuss an ongoing project, ask each member to prepare a progress report.
Other members should be given a copy of the report before the meeting.
If there are topics to be discussed, assign the topics to various team members.
This will strengthen their involvement.
Make the agenda reflect the names of the members you have assigned to present topics or to lead discussions.
When every person does what he is assigned to do IN ADVANCE, your meeting will progress quickly.
Manage The Time Well
When you are leading a meeting, you should always be on time for it.
Don’t let your staff twiddle their thumbs waiting for you.
Many bosses have the bad habit of showing up late for meetings.
This sends the wrong message.
It tells people that you think that your time is more valuable than theirs and that you don’t care a bit for the rules that you’ve established.
You set the time for the meeting, didn’t you?
So you are telling people that you don’t care about wasting a precious resource like time.
Everybody takes his cue from the boss.
If you want everybody to put in every effort to show up on time, you should lead by example.
It is just as important to end the meeting on time as it is to start it on time.
Deciding a definite end time will help you tackle what is on your agenda with a sense of purpose.
It gives you a sense of urgency.
It drives you to work for your objectives efficiently.
For a meeting to run effectively, a good agenda should include all items that should be covered.
It also should include how much time is allocated for each item.
Assign a timekeeper so things will run according to plan.
An agenda will keep everybody focused.
It compels everybody to make time count.
Simplify the meeting as much as you can.
Streamlining it ensures that you don’t waste anybody’s time.
Manage The Participants In The Meeting
You arrange meetings to get some work done, to generate suggestions, or to make decisions.
Consider some of these points:
Choose The Right Number Of People
Sometimes it is easier to achieve your objectives if you limit the number of participants to a meeting.
Having too many people participate may make the meeting too awkward.
You may find it difficult to connect to everyone who attends.
Know Your Participants
You don’t want to see unfamiliar faces in a meeting.
It is good practice to go over the list of expected participants beforehand.
If there are names that you don’t recognize, ask around or do some research so you will at least have some data about that person.
Communicate Your Expectations Clearly
When you express some thoughts with your subordinates, are you simply sharing ideas or are you issuing an instruction?
See to it that there is no misunderstanding.
There are many ways to reach a decision.
You can make a decision solo.
You can ask for inputs but end up making the decision on your own.
Also, you can make a decision by consensus.
If you’re calling a meeting to get some ideas before you make a critical decision, make everybody understand this from the very beginning.
You don’t want to create false expectations.
There are situations where it is best for you to make a decision on your own.
However, it is also your responsibility to find out what your team’s opinions are regarding a matter that concerns them.
You stand to make a better decision when you have all the facts, opinions, and insights you need.
One problem with soliciting input is that it encourages people to believe that they have a say in the decision-making process.
In case you know for certain that you will make the decision regardless of what the majority says (but you’d like to know their opinion nevertheless), you have to make this clear.
You have to explain from the get-go that the decision is not going to be via a democratic vote.
Being open about this will reduce the risk of frustration.
It will also make your team appreciate your efforts to discuss the situation with them even if you intend to make the final decision yourself.
Be Ready To Deal With Interpersonal Dynamics
You have to expect the interpersonal tendencies that may come into play in meetings. Some people can be pretty aggressive.
They may dominate the conversation.
Others are timid.
They tend to hang back and just listen until somebody draws them out of their shell.
Some individuals are quick to make suggestions and volunteer their ideas.
Others are quick to criticize.
Many individuals are reluctant to do so when they think that others are more knowledgeable than they are.
You don’t want people to hold themselves back during a meeting.
It is to the team’s advantage if you can draw people out to contribute to the meeting you are running in order for it to be effective.
Hold Pile-on Meetings
How does a pile-on meeting work?
Get a good number of people to the meeting to discuss all the ongoing projects.
Everybody contributes ideas which they think will boost the projects’ chance of becoming quite successful.
In this meeting, you encourage people to simply “pile on” on their ideas – regardless of whether or not they have the expertise in the field that is being discussed.
Nobody shoots down ideas.
The objective is to come up with as many ideas as possible.
Everybody puts aside his specialty, job title, or position and simply tries to help out by expressing what comes to mind.
It is amazing how many good ideas this technique can generate.
Having or running a productive and effective meeting is not difficult to do if you know how to encourage participation.
Ask for ideas as you go through the topics on your agenda.
If you have done your homework, your people will already know what is up for discussion and, hopefully, come prepared with relevant questions and ideas.
Encouraging the members of your team to share their ideas will send the message that their voice matters to you.
It will encourage them to speak freely and participate more actively in the meeting.
Somebody who takes center stage most of the time will quickly sidetrack a meeting.
Prevent this by setting ground rules right from the start.
Establish a time limit for each person to speak his piece.
Go round the room so everybody gets to participate.
Be sensitive to how the members of your team get to work with each other so you can set a framework that will be effective for everybody.
Put A Ban On Technology
Running a meeting is difficult and won’t be effective if you can’t get the full attention of the participants.
You can’t get people to contribute effectively or to focus on the meeting if everybody is texting, surfing the web, emailing, or playing games on their gadgets.
Make it a rule for people not to bring any of their personal gadgets to the meeting and you stand a better chance for increased participation.
Make Action Plans And Get Commitments
Running an effective and productive meeting requires that the meeting should end with action plans.
The plans should identify the individuals or committees responsible for taking specific actions.
They should also include the deadlines agreed on.
Write every commitment down to ensure ownership of assignments.
It drives people to actually work on the projects that they commit to.
If you say during the meeting, “We need the client to sign this,” the remark should immediately be followed by who should do it, as well as when the results are expected.
If you are assigning a particular task to an individual, you have to get him to commit as to when he will be able to hand you the finished product.
Take Down Notes
You need a written record of discussions, action plans, and decisions that take place during the meeting.
Assign a note-taker if you can’t handle this task yourself.
You need notes as a reference when you follow up on the action plans that the team decides to put into place.
It is also important to send out minutes after the meeting.
This will serve as a useful reminder about tasks that have to be done and deadlines that have to be met.
Taking down notes is important to track assignments. It keeps the members accountable. It makes expectations clear.
Taking down notes documents responsibilities assigned, tasks delegated, and deadlines agreed upon, ensures that everybody is on the same page.
Adjourn The Meeting As Soon As You Have Dealt With Everything On The Agenda
Once everything on your agenda has been discussed and acted upon, adjourn [close] the meeting.
Don’t allow it to stretch out indefinitely.
Taking a formal and professional attitude will set the right tone for subsequent meetings.
It tells people that you mean business.
It communicates that you want meetings to be as productive and effective as you can make them.
You can learn how to run effective meetings by taking note of the important meeting tips above.
Hold meetings with clear meeting objectives.
You will find it difficult to succeed in managing meetings if you don’t have a purposeful agenda.
Conducting a meeting requires actionable discussion and commitments.
Holding effective meetings is not difficult to do.
You simply have to follow the meeting tips already discussed.
If you are able to apply these effective meeting strategies, your members will know exactly what to expect when they walk in.
In the same manner, everybody will walk out of the meeting knowing exactly what they have to do next.
When was the last time you ran a meeting and how effective was it?
Please share your experience!