Do you want your credibility to skyrocket? Learn how to run great meetings!
I was recently attending a social gathering and a gentleman that served on a committee where I was the chair over 10 plus years ago came up to me and introduced me to his wife as the guy who ran the best meetings he has ever participated in. He went on to tell her that he was quite sure that I ran a solid business simply because of the way I ran the committee meetings. It was a pretty funny and interesting interaction especially because I did not know him that well and I certainly did not and don’t know him well enough for him to know whether our business is solid or not. The point is that he drew that conclusion simply because of how I ran meetings.
With most jobs you go about your normal daily functions by yourself or with small informal interactions with your peers. Formally scheduled meetings are relatively infrequent and the ones you personally organize are even more infrequent. In any group setting regardless of whether it is work-related or not, the people involved are always forming opinions of everyone else. A meeting is no different. It is a human instinct when you are in a group setting to assess everyone else and form judgments of the other people. It comes from our survival instinct. People need to know if anyone in the group poses a threat to their safety. Now, let’s consider a meeting scenario. All participants will be analyzed by all the other participants. It stands to reason that if you are the organizer of a meeting, you are probably going to be assessed at least as much as anyone else and probably more. This gives you the chance to enhance your credibility, and in turn, you have the chance to hurt it.
The funny thing is that it is not hard to run an efficient, organized, and productive meeting. Let’s dig into some simple guidelines that, if followed, can make you look like an all-star.
First, and by far, the most important part of any meeting happens before it even starts. From an importance standpoint, 75 percent of the success of a meeting depends on the pre-meeting preparation. Send an agenda well in advance of the meeting with the following information: the time, start and finish, the place, the invitees, the objective, all necessary information, and who is responsible for what. If there is any necessary information needed by any of the participants to prepare for the meeting, make sure they get it in plenty of time to fully digest it. Let everyone know they need to have read and understood all the pre-meeting information because you will not read it over in the meeting. I can’t stress this enough. So many people expect to be “babysat” if they are not the meeting organizer. Don’t let that happen, they have a responsibility to be prepared as a participant as well. I have seen too many meetings drag on because you must review information that should have been read and understood before the meeting ever started.
Stay on Time
Next comes the meeting. Always start on time. If anyone comes in late don’t backtrack to catch them up. It wastes everyone else’s time and they will realize that in the future they better be on time for your meetings. I have said before to a late participant that “their time must be more important than anyone else’s”. I say it jokingly, but it definitely gets the point across. At the start of the meeting outline the objective(s) of the meeting. Then start through the agenda. Make sure everyone participates and is given the opportunity to contribute. That said, make sure you keep the meeting on task. We all know how much time can be wasted on topics that have nothing to do with the original objective(s). It is critical to refocus the group if the meeting heads off course. If there are topics that come up that need to be addressed but are not part of this agenda, assign an action item to that topic to be addressed at another time. Occasionally, as the meeting organizer, you must use your judgment to decide how far to let a topic “wander”. Sometimes straying a bit off topic can be very beneficial and allow the group to discover a new idea or concept. That judgment is the art of running a meeting, but be careful, that can quickly be the downfall of a meeting.
Finally, make sure you end the meeting on time. People’s schedules are tight, and they appreciate it when you get them out when you said you would. If there are topics that were not covered, schedule another meeting to complete those topics. When a meeting is set to end at a certain time, people subconsciously prepare themselves mentally for that time. If you go past, you lose them. At the end of a meeting always summarize the progress made toward the objective(s) and assign actions items to people including expected completion dates. Thank your team and adjourn.
After the Meeting
The final part of any meeting is the aftermath. Send out meeting notes that include the objective(s), any notes on progress toward the objective(s), and the assigned action items with a due date. These notes need to be sent in a timely manner after the completion of the meeting. I would suggest no more than 24 hours. Put tasks in your personal task list to follow up on the assigned action items on the due date if they have not been completed. Doing this holds everyone accountable.
Running great meetings will increase your personal credibility and make the organization better. Who knows, maybe one day someone will come up to you at a social gathering and introduce you to their wife or husband by telling them how well you run a meeting. Good luck and I look forward to participating in your next meeting.