But let’s face it—meetings are a necessary part of your work life. Meetings shape our professional lives by typically bringing people together for some kind of collaborative work process. They are important as an outlet for asking questions, brainstorming, and to share expertise and perspective. They keep projects moving forward and they also provide a forum where people can raise problems, discuss issues and clarify misunderstandings.
Strong executives understand that the meetings they run are among their most powerful management tools. So if you’re interested in sharpening the meetings that you chair, consider these suggestions from your friends at Dale Carnegie Training of Alabama:
Define the meeting’s purpose — What’s the point of the meeting? Before you send out the invitations, be clear in your own mind about your goals in calling the meeting.
Give the meeting structure — Even informal meetings need to have a structure, including at least: An opening in which the purpose and the desired outcome are stated, a middle, in which discussion moves each agenda item at least a baby step forward, and a closing, when you sum up the conclusions, action items and assignments, and perhaps allow some discussion of additional next steps.
Lay out the details — For a successful meeting, you may have to be aggressive about informing and reminding participants of the details. Even if it’s a regular meeting and everybody should know the drill, specify the date, day, time and place, and remind invitees at least once again at the last minute. If you’re using email for invitations or reminders, put the details in the subject line.
Prepare an agenda — A written list of discussion items is usually helpful in keeping the meeting on target. If the meeting involves complex issues or requires some preparation, send out the agenda in advance. You can structure participation by not only delegating agenda items but also suggesting time limits for each item.
Keep it social — There’s a legitimate social component to many meetings, and you may better achieve your goals if all the participants feel engaged and comfortable about offering comments. This can be as simple as brief introductions, or include one-minute answers to a question like: “What is your most important current project?” Also, treat all participants with courtesy, give speakers your full attention and don’t work on other projects while the meeting is going on.
Be punctual — Invitees will behave more responsibly if they know that your meetings both start and end on schedule.
Designate a note taker — Every meeting needs to have somebody designated to keep a record, at least of key conclusions and assignments.
Show appreciation — Show that you genuinely appreciate participation, and thank people for their contributions. Thank everybody at the close of the meeting.
Follow it up — After the meeting see that both participants and invitees who couldn’t attend get a copy of the notes. Be sure that assignees have everything they need and are actually moving forward. If nothing seems to come of your meetings, people will lose interest and stop taking them seriously.
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