Have you ever been to a meeting where it just went on and on? Maybe some attendees went off on tangents. Or, others continuously debated the same old topics. I’m sure, we’ve all attended meetings like this. And it can be downright annoying – can’t it? But if you’re responsible for leading a meeting, how can you keep people focused without appearing to be a tyrant or an idea squasher?
Unfortunately, many people have never really been taught how to run a good meeting. Or, they’re simply too busy to take the time to prepare prior to a meeting. But to keep a meeting on track, it takes both discipline and effort. So to make your meetings more productive, follow these tactics:
- Clearly identify the meeting’s purpose. State the reason for the meeting from the start. Send out an agenda and any materials to the attendees before the meeting. By each agenda item, include any actions required and desired outcomes. Indicate who is responsible for each.
- Control the size of the meeting. Only invite those people who are critical to the meeting. You can always send an email after the meeting to let others know what happened during the meeting.
- Set the right tone. As the leader, don’t spend the meeting trying to convince people of your viewpoint. You need to be open to hearing other people’s opinions and contributions. Encourage attendee participation when making decisions.
- Manage long-winded individuals. Talk to people who you think may monopolize the meeting beforehand. Ask the person to keep their comments to a minimum, so others can be heard. When necessary, cut off the person when they start to ramble by asking if it’s OK to talk about the issue later. Make sure you get the person’s buy-in.
- Control tangents. When people get off topic or raise extraneous points, refocus them to the agenda. Ask them if you can address unrelated items at another time. If an individual continues to go on a tangent, ask him specifically what’s bothering him. But addressing the underlying issue, you may be able to appease the person and get the meeting back on track.
- Carefully transition from topic to topic. Instead of plowing through the agenda, ask everyone if they’re finished with the current topic before you move on to the next agenda item. This will make everyone feel that they’ve been heard and keep the conversation focused.
- End the meeting on the right note. Always make sure next steps are identified for each action item. Identify who will be responsible for each item and set deadlines. Send out a follow-up email after the meeting, outlining these next steps, responsible parties and due dates. This will help keep people accountable.
By using these strategies, your meetings should go more smoothly and everyone will know what’s expected of them.