If you are like many leaders, your daily schedules are crammed so full of meetings, commitments and your life that you rarely have the luxury to sit down, relax and plan thoughtfully. However, being prepared will give you an edge in conducting effective meetings for your organization and ensure that they are kept to an efficient timeframe!
Before the Meeting:
1. Meetings should be scheduled regularly and at the same time & place if possible. This helps to create a sense of habit within your organization. If everyone knows that staff meeting is on the second Thursday of every month, then there’s no reason for people to be schedule themselves for anything else. It also assists in time management for you as well as being considerate of their time as well.
2. Identify the purpose(s) of the meeting. What is the real reason you are meeting? Is it to brainstorm, cross-communicate, provide instruction, or simply give new information? It may also be a combination of one or more of these things.
3. Develop an agenda to meet the purpose(s) determined and establish a specific timeframe for each. Be ready to stick to both your agenda and individual time commitments for each topic.
4. Inform & prepare members prior to the meeting: send the agenda & special assignments or expectations for meeting ahead of time. If you are following up on previous information or will be asking opinions of information, send it in advance for preparedness and a more effective meeting. Anticipate discussion topics prior to your meeting and be prepared to answer them. This can keep the meeting moving forward with less chance of going into overtime. Cancel unnecessary meetings early so your members are assured their time will not be wasted.
5. Establish Meeting Norms. You can certainly use formal Parliamentary Procedure but that may be too rigid to be engaging! Why not simply assign some employees various tasks or more particularly MEETING ROLES on a rotating basis. Roles might include: Moderator, Timekeeper, Scribe to take meeting minutes etc. Find out more about Conducting an Engaging and Effective Meeting through Meeting Roles.
During the Meeting:
1. Begin the meeting on time whether everyone is there or not. Ask those who were late to stay after the meeting to discuss what was discussed prior and get caught up. Once employees see this pattern they will most likely begin arriving on time to avoid staying longer.
2. Welcome & introduce any guests. It is important to remember that engaging your employees must include all levels of the organization. Consider advising your team leaders to bring one of their employees. This helps to engage other employees in the meeting process and gives them an “insider’s look” at what the meetings are all about. It is a great way for them to understand some of the processes they are typically not exposed to.
3. Establish & announce time limits for potentially lengthy agenda & discussion items. Don’t be afraid to use a “PARKING LOT”. The PARKING LOT is a resting place for topics that may not be on the agenda during this meeting but are important for a future meeting. Put the topic in the PARKING LOT and schedule time for it at the next meeting.
4. Start with & stick to your agenda! Do not let people drift onto other subjects or tangents…no matter how interesting they may be! Thank the individual for their contribution and ask if it is a parking lot topic. You can always add these to your next meeting agenda!
5. Clarify assignments, or items delegated, giving specific information about expectations and deadlines. It is great to have lots of ideas and things come up that need to be accomplished. Nothing will happen unless you get a commitment from who will do it and when. Then ensure that is included in the minutes to ensure a record of the decision and accountability for those concerned.
6. Ensure that everyone participates in the meeting: ♦ Ask open-ended questions. If you are asked a question, turn it back to the group before you answer. This encourages participation and shows you are interested in others’ opinions.
7. Prior to discussions, it is important for the individual running the meeting to clarify important background information as well as to ensure all pros and cons of all issues are considered.
8. Prior to making the decision, or voting, the individual running the meeting should summarize the topic item requiring a vote or decision and any rationale. Let the group know what the decision will mean for the organization wherever appropriate.
9. Make meetings FUN! Utilize brainstorming, group activities and role swapping. Add fun and interactive activities. For example, ask each person to provide one word of appreciation or thanks to another attendee, or ask each person to share one thing about them that wouldn’t be found on their resume.
10. BE ENTHUSIASTIC !!!
After the Meeting:
1. Evaluate the meeting to see if the goals you set were met. Ask another member or trusted advisor to give you feedback regarding your facilitation of the meeting.
2. Have yourself or appropriate individual (Scribe) to compile and provide the minutes to you for review immediately after the meeting. Distribute the minutes as soon as possible after the meeting to ensure anyone timely completion for anyone tasked with assignment.
3. Follow up with individuals responsible for delegated tasks in advance of the deadline set. Ensure you ask if they need additional information or assistance?
Remember even if you are facilitating the meeting, practice good listening habits by truly paying attention to what is said. Take your own notes to ensure key points are included in minutes and ask questions if you are unclear. Ensuring an effective meeting requires a team effort of those involved even before the meeting begins.