Hosting a meeting can be a daunting task, even for a seasoned professional. For those just entering the workforce, speaking in front of your peers and keeping your coworkers on topic may seem overwhelming. Effectively leading a meeting is an important skill in the corporate world. To create a positive and lasting impression at your first (or 50th) meeting, follow these tips:
Determine if the meeting is really necessary. Ask yourself if an email conversation or conference call would suffice. Respecting your colleagues’ time by gathering only when necessary will gain you a reputation for calling meetings that have substance.
Let attendees know what to expect. Prepare an agenda and distribute it in advance, listing items in order of priority. Not only will this ensure that you discuss critical items first, but it will also give participants a chance to arrive prepared.
Set a specific start and finish time. Doing so shows respect to your colleagues and allows them to schedule the rest of their day accordingly. If your meetings consistently start 20 minutes late, you will quickly gain the reputation of being inconsiderate towards your coworkers’ schedules. In the rare event a meeting runs long, acknowledge the set ending time and release those who are committed to other appointments. Invite those who can stay to meet for a short period of time, then schedule a follow up meeting for the entire group. It’s important to stick as close as possible to the meeting time schedule.
Be ready with positive methods to stay on track. Even the best planned meetings can get derailed by irrelevant tangents or long-winded coworkers. As the meeting facilitator, you’re responsible for keeping everyone focused. Prepare a few transitional phrases to redirect the participants: “That’s a topic we can explore further at another time, but for now I’d like to stay focused on ways to reach our sales quota.”
Designate a note-taker. Give yourself the freedom to focus on leading the meeting without taking notes. Ask someone to be responsible for taking notes on their laptop with the approval of the speaker, use a notepad, or capture ideas on easel-sized presentation sheets (the kind with the adhesive “sticky note” backing that allow sheets to be displayed along the wall during the meeting).
Make it worth their while. If you are organizing a brainstorming session where you may need to pump up participation, consider offering an incentive to engage. Small gift cards for coffee or lunch are fun and inexpensive rewards. If there’s not a budget for giveaways, talk to your boss – perhaps offering the prized parking spot for a week or the opportunity to take a half day on a Friday afternoon. Snacks are also a powerful way to encourage participation. The motivators will depend on the personalities of your participants.
Follow up. Before you adjourn, give a brief recap of what needs to happen next. Once you get back to your office, provide notes to all participants that clearly outline action items, including an assignment of who is responsible for follow through, and a timeline for completion.