We’ve all been there: stuck in an excruciating long meeting that seems to have no focus, no direction, and no one in charge. These types of meetings leave attendees feeling drained and ineffective, and ultimately that your time is not valued by the peers, clients, or leadership involved in the meeting.
This is simply poor meeting management and ultimately wastes time. But how do you keep your meetings from being such a disaster? Learn how to chair a meeting effectively! Here are some pointers:
A meeting without a purpose is simply another word for a “waste of time.” When preparing, the first step will be to clearly define what the purpose of the meeting is.
Ask questions like: are there specific initiatives or issues that are going to be discussed? Have there been previous meetings you should be up to date on?
Do some research and understand what is going to be talked about, and the history behind the discussion items. Then use these items to help you write a meeting agenda that contains key topics and time limitations for each topic.
2. Call the Meeting to Order
At the scheduled time get everyone’s attention and introduce yourself and the purpose of the meeting. Depending on the type of meeting, you may have a specific structure required for the meeting opening, so be sure to follow any necessary items.
Most importantly, state the time allotment of the meeting, in order to keep everyone focused and on track. This sets expectations and keeps everyone on the same schedule. Meeting attendees should have received a copy of the meeting agenda beforehand to prepare accordingly.
3. Highlight Relevant Information
If this is one in a series of meetings, be sure to provide a summary of relevant information so that everyone is on the same page. Also, allow attendees to report on any related information that is necessary for the meeting.
4. Unfinished Business (If Applicable)
Cover any unfinished business from the last meetings held, if applicable. This is the time to try to resolve any unfinished business so that everyone can move on to new issues and items.
5. New Business
Introduce new business that needs to be addressed in this meeting. This should be where the bulk of the meeting time is spent. Your job as the chair is to direct the discussion, but encourage others to participate. It is your job to steer the discussion back to the items on hand and keep up with the allotted time, but it is not your job to do all of the talking!
Try to stick with your agenda in order to attend to all business and leave none unfinished for another day. This may not always be possible, but do your best to move the meeting along.
6. Summarize the Main Points
This step is important to make sure everyone leaves knowing exactly what happened in the meeting, and what items are expected from them (if any). You want everyone to be aligned at the ending of the meeting, and not be left frustrated that nothing was resolved.
7. Lay Groundwork for Next Meeting (If Applicable)
If there is the need for another meeting at a later date, ensure that everyone knows what the content of that meeting will cover, and the general time frame of when that meeting will be held.
8. Finish On Time
Always. End of story.
If you don’t finish on time, attendees will be frustrated and may either get behind on other work or be late to other meetings or appointments. Need more time than what you alloted? Schedule a follow up meeting, but don’t hold attendees longer than agreed upon.
Keeping your meetings focused and relevant will help all attendees to feel that their time and input is important and valued. A successful chair of a meeting will be timely, and keep the meeting relevant to the topic at hand at all times. Test out this strategy at your next meeting, and see the difference it can make in meeting productivity.