How to Run Killer Meetings
“Why am I here when I have so much work to do?” We’ve all asked that question while sitting in a meeting that lacked direction and energy. And it’s the last thing you want people to think about at your next meeting.
In my experience in business and as chairman of a number of national non-profit organizations, I’ve learned a few things about running efficient meetings. Though every meeting has different dynamics depending on the people in them and the topics discussed, here are a few basic pointers.
- Have a well-defined purpose and communicate it in advance. Know what you want to achieve at the meeting and communicate this to participants. Send out an agenda that includes the meeting objective, specific topics to be discussed and any preparation that needs to be completed in advance. Even a brainstorming meeting should be organized along certain topics. Consider putting the agenda on a screen or white board during the meeting to keep the group focused.
- Break the ice and make sure that everyone feels welcome. For a weekly staff meeting this may just include asking how everyone’s weekend went. For a group of people who may not know one another, allow everyone a chance to introduce themselves. You can get conversations going by asking each person to share something personal, such as a favorite vacation spot or hobby. The key point is that people who feel welcome and relaxed will contribute more to the group.
- Have energy and enthusiasm. As the leader, you set the tone of the meeting and can be the spark of enthusiasm/humor/excitement by how you begin the event. Even if the topic is negative, such as a discussion about budget cuts, express your optimism that by working together, the group will arrive at the best decisions about how to move forward.
- Respect everyone’s time. A general rule is to keep every meeting to an hour or less. In the rare case that you need more than an hour, consider scheduling two meetings a few days apart or allow a 5 minute break at the half-way point.
- Keep on track. Don’t let anyone hijack the meeting by talking too long or going off topic. Insert yourself politely but firmly, and suggest that another meeting be scheduled to handle their issue at greater length. If you’re in a large meeting and using a microphone, maintain control of the microphone when asking for feedback.
- Align yourself with the group. Ask participants at the beginning of the meeting if they agree with meeting objectives you put forth. Ask them at the end of the meeting if you have addressed their concerns, or if anyone has a question or comment.
- Write it down. Take notes or minutes during the meeting that you can share with the group and refer to when reconvening.
- State the Path Forward. If you assigned tasks during the meeting, confirm each assignment or follow-up commitment. Close with a statement about what you’ve accomplished and briefly state next steps so everyone can agree on the path forward.
- Follow up. Distribute a summary that includes decisions made, tasks, deadlines and responsible parties. Ask participants to let you know if they won’t be able to complete their assigned task.
When you run organized, productive meetings, people take notice. Let me know if you have any additional ideas about running killer meetings!