You’ve planned and scheduled the meeting smartly. Now, run it smartly. Write the meeting objectives on a white board or a flipchart at the front of the room, so that meeting participants will be focused as soon as they arrive.
Have ground rules: Let your participants set and agree to ground rules that will give your meeting the appropriate standards and structure. This will help you keep control of your meeting and reduce the chances of interruptions, sidebar issues, or discussions of issues not on your agenda. Some examples of ground rules are:
- Turn off cell phones, Blackberries, and so on.
- Don’t bring other work to the meeting.
- Go for focus, momentum, and achieving your objective.
- Don’t cancel at the last minute (you must send someone in your place).
- Everyone should be prepared to share.
- Everyone’s opinion matters.
- Everyone is to be treated with respect.
Get to the room early: That way you can set up the meeting room the way you want it, get your PowerPoint ready, and greet participants as they arrive. This will show that you are serious about getting results and that you respect their time.
Set the tone from the beginning: Show participants that you value their time by thanking them at the beginning for coming to your meeting on time. Everyone likes a little appreciation.
Get everyone involved from the beginning: Go around the room and ask everyone to say their name, department, why they are there, and what they want to get out of the meeting. The sooner you get everyone involved the better the sharing will be.
By getting people to share quickly, you can get a read on how quiet or how outspoken they are and their level of enthusiasm for being at your meeting. Make sure everyone shares by calling on them.
Cover only the topics on the agenda: The number one reason why meetings don’t finish on time is that the leader of the meeting loses control of the meeting. Be the Ringmaster so that the meeting sticks to the agenda! A meeting that sticks to the agenda will finish faster, and the next time you schedule a meeting, people will be far more likely to attend. It also presents an organized and professional image.
Use a flipchart to engage and control your group: If other issues come up, write them down on a flipchart; and if there’s time at the end of the meeting, you can discuss them. Otherwise, you can save them for the next meeting.
Keep minutes: The person responsible should include the “formal stuff ” (date, time, leader, purpose, participants), then record key points that relate to the agenda, and then ask questions to clarify any contributions or decisions.
Generate ideas, build consensus, and stay neutral: You must remain impartial and guide participants to share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. You need to set up a “safe” environment where participants feel safe to contribute their ideas.
If you don’t think you can do this either appoint an impartial facilitator or try to work out a solution. If a participant objects to a decision it is important to find out why and work through their objection. To have a consensus you must consider all concerns and find the most agreeable course of action.
“Nobody knows when the first meeting took place, but it’s a safe bet that the meeting seemed too long to some participants, poorly organized to others, and boring to at least a few, and it’s likely that some were disappointed in the results.”