5 Tips for Running Effective Meetings: Improve Meeting Management Skills
Meetings are an essential part of the life of every organization and your ability to run effective meetings with your management skills is a critical part of your success in meeting management. As a leader, there are a series of things I recommend that you keep in the back of your mind.
Meeting Management Tip #1: Begin With a Purpose
One of the most important tasks you need to do to improve your management skills and hold more effective meetings, is to begin with an outline of the purpose. When everyone sits down you say, “We are holding this meeting today to accomplish these goals and objectives.”
The opening five to seven minutes in any meeting is the most important component to conducting more effective meetings. It sets the foundation, establishes the parameters, organizes the terms of reference and tells everybody in the room why they are there, for how long, and what they need to accomplish. I also recommend that you write out your introduction word for word and read it out. This clarity will allow a person who doesn’t know you or the situation coming in to get right up to speed at the start.
Improve your management skills during a meeting by being both specific and punctual with the timing. Be sure to announce the duration. This should also be printed at the top of your agenda, but you want to restate it in your introduction. Begin right on time. Do not penalize the people who were there on time by waiting for others who are late. Assume that the latecomer is not coming at all and get right on with the meeting. This helped me so much when I first learned this.
If someone comes in late and finds out they’ve missed important information, refuse to start over for them. They will eventually get the message, be more punctual, and help you improve your management skills in a respectable manner. Many companies have a policy where if a meeting is called for 10:00 am, they lock the doors from the inside at 10:01. You only have to do that once to get people to be on time.
If you’re there to solve a problem you say, “We are here to talk about and to come to a decision, conclusion, and resolution on this problem. Here are the facts of the problem. Here is the information that we have, the alternatives we’ve considered, and our market intelligence. Now, what do we do from here?”
Meeting Management Tip #2: Encourage Open Discussion for More Effective Meetings
It’s very important that you get input from everybody; not only the people who have a lot to contribute and are eager, but also from those who are more shy and less likely to speak up. You want input from especially women and others who may be a little bit reluctant to try to compete with more aggressive or assertive people.
Remember that leaders don’t dominate. We have found that the natural tendency of meeting leaders is to speak 50 percent of the time on average. This is not for you and it is important for you to steer away from this to improve your management skills. As a leader, you should take the role as a facilitator and avoid hogging the discussion. There is a tendency if you don’t use the round-robin technique for you to speak more and more because you’re the one who prepared the agenda.
The way to avoid inadvertently dominating the meeting is to delegate meeting leadership. Whenever possible, assign the meeting management responsibility to someone else, to build subordinates skills. This is wonderful training tool that gives employees the opportunity to build their meeting management skills, organize their thought, and perform in front of a group. They will learn a lot from planning the meeting and preparing the agenda, and this will ultimately help you run more effective meetings. Very often what I’ll do in my management positions is rotate the leader position to other staff in subsequent meetings, which will help them improve their management skills.
Keep the discussion on track. A key job of the meeting leader is to keep bringing people back to the issue. Stick to the items on the agenda and don’t allow discussion to stray or wander. By keeping the discussion back to the main issue, this will help you conduct more effective meetings and save a lot of time.
Meeting Management Tip #3: Press for Closure
Once you start talking on a subject, discuss it thoroughly but press for closure on what has been decided and who’s going to do what and by when, before you go on to the next item on the agenda.
The inability to keep on track and to press for closure are the two major time wasters and major complaints from people who attend non-effective meetings.
Meeting Management Tip #4: Summarize the Main Point
An important meeting management tip to learn is to summarize at the end of each discussion point and at the end of the meeting. Set out and summarize your time and action schedules, and your implementation plan and assignments. Then have everybody in the meeting agree on what has been decided.
Something very interesting happens. There is what is called “peer pressure.” People who agree to do something in front of their peers are much more likely to follow through. If everyone heard them say that they would do something by Thursday at noon, it is much more likely that they will have an internal incentive that will save you the need to monitor, inspect and control.
They can’t come back later and say they didn’t know what they were supposed to do, because there is a group of witnesses. So getting people to commit publicly is a very powerful tool of meeting management psychologically and one of the best management skills I’ve learned to use.
Meeting Management Tip #5: Keep a Record
Finally, distribute minutes from the meeting within 24 hours. The more important the decisions that have been taken, the more important that you have them distributed in writing so that if they have questions they can get back to you. If there are no questions then they are accepting the record of the meeting as distributed. This is a final step that is very important part of conducting more effective meetings and improving your management skills.
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