6 proven tips for conducting meetings effectively


How many times has it happened to you that you've spent an hour or two at a meeting which didn't go anywhere, and if anyone had asked you immediately afterwards what it was about you would be unable to respond? We are probably all familiar with this experience. But how can you conduct a meeting so that everyone taking part takes away what they need to, and not just a feeling of having wasted their time?

The good news is that you don't need any special qualities or skills to conduct a meeting: absolutely anyone can do it. You just need to observe the following tips.

1. Why are you calling the meeting?

It might seem a banal question - if it wasn't necessary then there wouldn't be any meeting. But try to really think hard about what the purpose of the meeting is. And formulate this (ideally on paper) including sub-goals and problems which you would like to go through with your colleagues or team. This will help you not just to better prepare for the meeting, but also not to lose track during the meeting. It is worth sending the topic of the meeting to all those attending at least a day in advance - so that they too have time to prepare. In addition, it is also worth planning the time as well as the topic: so that you have enough of it to go through everything important, have room for questions and discussions, and also so as not to overstretch the meeting.

2. How many people are coming?

Another useful rule is to only invite people to the meeting for whom the topic is relevant. You won't need to waste time introducing people to the issue in question who have not yet heard about it, and neither will you see the confused (and later likely slightly bored) expressions of half the participants who could certainly have made better use of their time..

3. When and for how long?

On the topic of time - also choose the time of the meeting taking account of your team's availability. In general, you should avoid holding meetings on Fridays. The reason is simple - people are usually focused on other things, and the idea that the meeting could overrun, complicating the start of their weekend, is not something that promotes a positive approach from your audience, or a pleasant atmosphere. Furthermore, overrunning a meeting like this is a bad habit which is worth avoiding. Of course if the meeting ends only five minutes late, this is not a disaster, but do not stretch it out for longer than you need to.

4. Well-structured

In order to avoid holding one of these "pointless" meetings, it's worth remembering to lay out the meeting structure. Prepare this for yourself while planning, but it is worth introducing your colleagues to it to begin with too. This is so that they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Don't be afraid to actively involve participants - don't wait for them to ask you: ask them questions during the meeting and make sure they understand what you're saying (and also that they are registering you). It should also be clear to each participant during the meeting what is expected of them and what their tasks are. When assigning these, be as specific as possible and make sure the other party has fully understood you. We are set up to appreciate clear and detailed instructions with clear deadlines. As a result, we can remember more and the likelihood of the particular task being fulfilled is increased.

5. Write it down

Although most people make notes during meetings, we tend to only write down what directly applies to us. But official minutes summarising each meeting should be produced. This is so that everybody has access to an overview of all the topics focused on whenever needed. You can ask one of the invitees to make minutes, but if you are able to delegate one of your team members who is not an active participant to write them, then you should do that. This way you won't risk the person writing the minutes missing their own task in their efforts to record everything. You should then distribute the minutes to everybody as soon as possible.

6. Guide, manage, but with a smile

Let's face it - most people are not exactly enthused by the prospect of a meeting. But if towards others you approach the meeting from the outset as a necessary evil which you're not looking forward to either, then you can't expect a positive response from others. So smile and be cheerful, and you'll see that it's infectious (at least for most people).

In terms of managing the meeting, do not let the meeting stray too far from the planned topics and "schedule". Despite certain theories, the human brain does not have the capacity to focus 100 percent on a number of problems at the same time. Furthermore, there is a danger that you may only get to half of the necessary tasks. And that's a pity. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to conduct the meeting like a dictator - you should certainly leave plenty of space for feedback, questions and comments. Also always try to focus on the meeting while it is taking place - if you feel that there are too many thoughts "swirling" in your head, then try our proven technique to calm down and increase concentration.

If you feel that your team needs help not just in terms of meetings, but also, for example, in terms of improving relations between individual members, time management, people management, etc., you can make use of the services of a coach who specialises in business coaching.  

Autor: Ing. Andrea Gawron, ACC (ICF)
Foto: Stockphotosecrets.com

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