I’ve long held the theory that the ability to facilitate a good meeting can make or break your career. A person who can run an effective meeting demonstrates that they are talented at executing on a plan. A poorly run meeting is often an annoyance for the attendees and everyone leaves feeling less confident about the meeting organizer.
I’ve put together a few tips on running a successful meeting. I hope you find them useful.
How to Facilitate a Highly Productive Meeting
The focal point of any meeting is the first sentence you utter:
“I’ve brought you here today because…….”
I’ve sat through plenty of meetings where the facilitator had not really thought through the why’s and what’s of a meeting—why are you bringing us here and what do you want us to accomplish? Those are the types of meetings that give meetings a bad reputation.
When scheduling a meeting, make sure you have a concise idea of what you want to accomplish. There are several reasons for having a meeting:
- To distribute information
- To gather information
- To brainstorm ideas
- To assign action steps that move a project forward
Before you schedule a meeting, think through these things:
- Who needs to be there and why?
- How long should it take and why?
- What are you going to accomplish at the meeting?
- What do you want people to come to the meeting with?
Make sure the attendees understand all four of these questions.
At the beginning of the meeting, spell out what you want to accomplish. Guide the discussion with a firm and gentle hand. A few phrases should have in your arsenal:
- When people get off topic, “That is a good point, but I want to refocus to the topic at hand.”
- If someone starts talking for too long, “Shari, I’m going to stop you there and let someone else give their point of view,” (this often works best with a friendly hand motion toward the person speaking).
- If the conversation gets heated, “This doesn’t sound like this an issue we are going to solve in our 30-minute meeting. I’ll take everyone’s view point back for discussion.”
Always wrap up the meeting with an overview of what was decided, what action steps were assigned and a recap of deadlines.
Other helpful tips:
- In regularly scheduled meetings, have someone taking notes via the computer, if possible. Email the notes to the people in attendance right after the meeting. This will help keep a running log for what you discussed and what you agreed upon.
- Assume meetings take 30 minutes. If you are going to ask for longer, make sure you communicate why.
- Use Outlook to request meetings with people.
- Don’t be afraid of silence and don’t be afraid to prompt people to speak.
- Remember that introverts and extroverts behave differently in group settings. Don’t be surprised if introverts do not speak up at a meeting, but speak to you later about an issue. Sometimes it takes others longer to verbally articulate an idea.
- If you are going to pass out something that is long or complicated, make sure you give people time to read it before the meeting.
I’ll end this post with one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite authors (and fellow Seattle-ite) Susan Scott (author of Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Live One Conversation at a Time), because I do believe that more rides on each meeting and each conversation than most business people appreciate.
Shari Storm speaks around the country on a number of topics. Her book, Motherhood is the New MBA: Using Your Parenting Skills to be a Better Boss has been published in three languages: American, Canadian and Mandarin. It has been featured in Time, Redbook and Costco Connection. You can learn more about Shari at www.sharistorm.com.