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  • Writer's pictureJackie Booth

How to run a great meeting.

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

We’ve all come out of a meeting frustrated because the things you needed sorting weren’t discussed, people got hung up on irrelevant details, and no-one was able to make a decision. Or where the conversation was high-jacked by someone else’s priorities leaving you no closer to moving your project forward.

It’s incredibly frustrating and can be easily avoided!

In this blog, I’m going to walk you through the four key things to have in place to get a handle on a meeting, whether you’re chairing or presenting an agenda item requiring support or resources.

What’s the purpose of the meeting?

There are two parts to this and quite simply they are, why and who? What do you hope to gain out of the meeting and are all the key players present? If the answer is not sure and no, then it’s best not to hold it unless they are in place.

Many meetings turn out to be an unnecessary “talking shop” where the purpose seems to be the sharing of information rather than problem solving or decision-making. I’m sure you can think of times where the why and who haven’t been considered and everyone’s time is wasted.

Or even worse, you get pulled into a meeting and you’ve no idea why. That’s bad planning and shows a lack of respect of your time.

Take the time to consider whether it would be more efficient for you to pick up the phone or send an email to achieve the same thing, it might turn out to be a better use of your time.

What can you do to prepare?

The best meetings are ones where you’ve had time to not only prepare yourself, but everyone present. This is especially necessary if you need significant approval for something. You might be clear on your objectives, but is everyone else?

Have a conversation with any key personnel prior to the meeting and find out where they may have objections. There is nothing worse than being caught on the back foot in a meeting without the support you need to proceed.

It’s also a good idea to make notes at the preliminary meeting; I’ve had people change their mind mid-project (and mid-meeting in some cases) and having notes of the previous conversation with them really helps if they are suddenly in opposition or asking questions you’ve already answered.

If you have a slot on a the agenda, make sure that there is time allowed for you to both present as well as any subsequent discussion. Again, this is part of your preparation. A good chair will be keeping an eye on the time allocated for each agenda item and you will need to make sure you have their support to manage the discussion if it gets side-tracked before a decision is reached within the allotted time.

When you are the chairing yourself, keeping to the agenda within the allotted timeframe and managing any disruptions are the most challenging aspects of a meeting. Make time to get up to speed with the key issues and objectives. If you’re not prepared, it’s going to feel like you’re refereeing a school sports match trying to keep on top of all the competing priorities and reach the required outcomes.

What can you do to keep focus?

If you have a tight agenda and are prepared, it’s far easier to keep to topic. Additionally as chair, you will find yourself having to curtail lengthy discussions and keep everyone focused on the matter at hand. There will often people who are “professional meeting attendees” who seek to prolong the discussion and get out of doing any work.

There are also people who can’t resist telling stories and anecdotes, which might be entertaining, but usually don’t add anything to a meeting. In fact, it’s usually the opposite as they distract and waylay the ultimate discussion.

As chair, you have the power to prevent this – use it! Designate someone to capture the important issues and actions and refer back to them to check progress, especially if you are running out of time. Summarise progress, make the uncomfortable decisions and don’t be afraid to delegate tasks or next steps and secure an agreed deadline for completion.

What can you do afterwards?

One of the key factors for effective meeting management is consistent communication. Ideally, you’ll keep in touch with meeting attendees to confirm agreements and decisions and to minimise any confusion relating to who is doing what. In fact, regular and accurate communication is a pivotal aspect of leadership in any shape or form, so make sure you follow up with people and check they’re on the same page as you.

People are instrumental in ensuring that meetings, projects, and teams are efficient and productive, and it’s helpful if you were chairing to ask for feedback as to how effective the meeting was from their perspective. It’s good to know what added value, what they’d like to see more of and whether they felt their contribution and participation was recognised. Seeking the opinion of others builds both trust and morale, and makes for a more rewarding place to spend your working hours.

What next?

I hope that these have been useful points to consider when you’re planning your next meeting.

Effective management of meetings to achieve objectives are one of the key roles you are responsible for when you have a leadership role, or if you’re an aspiring leader.

Ask for the opportunity to chair a meeting, maybe a team meeting initially to get to know how it feels and as part of developing your own leadership style.

Your leadership style is something that is unique to you. You might not have thought knowing your own style was important but it’s an intrinsic part of how you show up as a female leader.

If you want to know more about discovering your own unique leadership style, whether you’re chairing meetings, managing a new project, or dealing with conflict in your team then sign up to my next FREE Leadership Styles Masterclass and discover:

What is effective about how YOU approach leadership in order to do more of what works

The leadership styles that you can adopt to enhance your natural skills and strengths

How to bring your whole self into how you lead

If you’ve been hesitant to really explore and understand your own leadership style then this is the class for you! You’ll leave the Masterclass understanding your own individual leadership style and strengths, as well as how to apply the new knowledge so you no longer waste time on worrying about things that don’t work of help you to reach your goals.

Best Wishes Jackie x

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