Meetings are a powerful tool that are widely misunderstood. Given the frustration most people feel when their time is wasted, gaining a reputation for running efficient and successful meetings is good for you and your career.
Running a successful meeting is more than sending out a notice that your team is to meet at a particular time and place. Successful meetings need structure and order, without these elements, they can drag on and not accomplish a thing.
So what makes a successful meeting? Here are 7 steps to run a successful meeting:
Make your objective clear
Too often, people call a meeting to discuss something without really considering what a good outcome would be. A successful meeting serves a useful purpose. This means that in it, you achieve a desired outcome.
To help you determine what your meeting objective is, complete this sentence:
At the close of this meeting, I want the group to…
With the end result clearly defined, you can then plan the contents of the meeting and determine who needs to be present.
Consider who is invited
When you’re calling a meeting, take time to consider who really needs to be there. The people in the meeting room make or break your effectiveness and the success of the meeting in general.
If you’re announcing a change, invite the people who are affected by the announcement. If you’re trying to solve a problem, invite the people who will be good sources of information for a solution.
When people feel that what is being discussed isn’t relevant to them, or that they lack the skills or expertise to be of assistance, they’ll view their attendance at the meeting as a waste of time.
Open the meeting with a positive round
Psychological experiments have shown the way a meeting starts, sets the tone for the whole meeting. If you want energy and engagement from your team, you need to embody those qualities while they walk through those meeting doors.
By starting the meeting with complaints, problems and mutual blame – that’s what you’ll get. But, if you start out with something positive, the rest of the meeting is more likely to be more fun.
The best way to start a meeting positively, is to ask each participant to briefly share something positive. Try some of the following ideas.
Stick to your schedule
Vague intentions to have a discussion on a topic rarely end on a productive note. It is important to create an agenda that lays out everything you plan to cover in the meeting, along with a timeline that allots a certain number of minutes to each item.
With an idea of what needs to be covered and for how long, you can then look at the information that should be prepared beforehand. If it is a meeting to solve a problem, ask the participants to come prepared with a viable solution. If you are discussing an ongoing project, have each participant summarise his or her progress to date and circulate the reports amongst members.
Use time wisely
Time is a precious resource and no one wants their time wasted. With the amount of time spent in meetings, it is important to streamline the meeting as much as possible.
People appreciate it when you understand their time is valuable, which is why starting the meeting on time and ending on time will quickly enhance your reputation as an organised person. If you are running a large or complex meeting, consider asking a colleague to serve as time keeper.
The art and science of follow up is a vital professional habit and it also matters in the context of successful meetings. It is quite common for people to come away from the same meeting with very different interpretations of what went on. To reduce this risk, email a summary highlighting what was accomplished to all who attended within 24 hours after the meeting. It’s important to document the following:
- The responsibilities given
- The tasks delegated
- Assigned deadlines.
When it comes to running a successful meeting, following up in a timely basis is a great way to manage stress and make a good impression on others as everyone will be on the same page.
Successful meetings can be a source of creativity and motivation – a time when team collaboration and leadership combine and create the space for achieving organisational goals. With a solid objective in mind, a tight agenda and a commitment to involving the meeting participants, you are well on your way to chairing a successful meeting.
About the author
Belinda Lyone, General Manager of COS