Once you’ve set the stage for an effective meeting, you have to actually step into the arena and run your meeting. Running an effective meeting takes the skills of a diplomat, a negotiator, a circus ringmaster, and a journalist. Depending on the personalities present, running an effective meeting can be a challenge. Here are some steps that can help you take to keep control, maximize the value of your meeting, and be successful:
1. Start Your Meeting A Little Late. Conventional wisdom holds that you should always start your meeting on time. It’s a noble goal. But, in the real world, office workers attend many meetings in a day and those meetings may be widely dispersed across a wide geographic area. You need to allow people just a little time to get to your meeting on the phone, on the web, or in person. This doesn’t mean that you need to sit in silence. Use the first two to four minutes of your meeting to greet arrivals, note attendees, handle quick sidebars that may be needed to bring people of to speed, and have your scribe instant message any vital no-shows to see if they can make it. If someone above you in the organizational structure is a vital attendee and has assured you that they are on the way, you may even want to postpone your start by an extra few minutes. However, time is money, and by minute five, you should be done with introductions and into your agenda items.
2. Manage Your Time. You have a scheduled amount of meeting time and you have a certain number of agenda items to be addressed. Since you are running the meeting, you should decide beforehand how much time to dedicate to each agenda item. If conversation on a particular agenda item is going over the time you had alloted, you need to make the call about whether to take the conversation “off-line” to be resolved outside of your meeting, or hold a follow up meeting on the long-running agenda item, or simply let a valuable conversation run its course. You also need to be interject and truncate conversations by long-winded participants or stop conversations that have meandered away from the meeting agenda.
3. Capture Highlights and To Do Items. While you are participating in the conversation, it is helpful to have another team member working as a dedicated scribe. The scribe takes attendance and takes copious notes to capture the highlights and action items arising from your meeting. You should back up your scribe by jotting down key notes of your own. However, as the meeting facilitator, you have to keep your meeting on-track and productive.
4. Distribute Meeting Highlights. The best meeting notes in the world are useless unless they are placed in the hands or e-mail boxes of your meeting attendees. The highlights and action items from any significant meeting should be circulated shortly after the meeting. This will ensure that meeting participants see the key points, decisions, and to do items that came from your meeting. Your meeting highlights will connect your meeting to actions that need to be taken.
5. Immediately Address Urgent Action Items. Finally, you need to address any urgent action items from the meeting that are on your personal to-do list. Action builds on the momentum built in your meeting.
Ultimately, the actions that result from your meeting are the true measure of your meeting’s effectiveness.