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5 Ways To Run A Great Meeting

by Helen Wilkie

Keeping minutes and wasting hours? Not if you follow these simple but essential steps!

Yes, you do need an agenda. We all know formal meetings need agendas, but what we often don't realize is the value of an agenda to any meeting—even a short, informal one.

The agenda helps you, as the meeting leader, as well as the others attending. Make sure everyone has a copy of the agenda well before the meeting.

By listing the discussion topics, you organize the meeting in your mind and force yourself to consider how you will conduct it. Ask the participants to submit items for discussion, thus preparing everyone for what is to come and lessening the chances of unexpected, last-minute items that pull the meeting off course.

Give each item a time frame, so that everyone knows the approximate time the meeting will end. Then stick to it.

Tell Them Why They Are There

Open your meeting with a brief, clear statement of the purpose of the meeting.

By using words like discuss, consensus, inform, decide, consider, let you know, ask your opinion, you will tell the attendees what you expect of them. If you don't know the objective of the meeting, you won't know whether or not you reached it.

Start With The Most Important Items

There is a tendency to begin regular meetings with routine items—"to get them out of the way". The trouble is, by the time you have covered these items, which often get much more discussion than they warrant, there is usually not enough time left for the important subjects.

Try turning things around. Put the items requiring serious discussion or decisions at the beginning of the agenda, and work back to those needing little input from the group.

When the major items have been dealt with, tell the meeting how much (or how little) time is left and invite routine reports, etc. Stop the meeting at the scheduled time, and even if you haven't covered everything, the items not discussed will be the least important ones.

Summarize Frequently

One of the greatest enemies of meetings is digression—either by the leader or the group. As the leader, you can keep everyone on track and the meeting moving along by frequently summarizing what has been said.

When the discussion threatens to derail, interrupt with a reference to the specific point under discussion and sum up what has been agreed. You can then continue on the same track or decide to move on to the next point.

Take Notes

Either take notes yourself or ask someone in the group to do so. This doesn't mean you must write up formal minutes of every meeting. What you need is a brief record of what was discussed, what was agreed and most importantly, actions that are to be taken by individuals.

The notes should be typed and distributed to all attendees as soon after the meeting as possible. Practical meeting notes will ensure that important follow-up actions don't slip down a crack.

Helen Wilkie is a professional speaker and author, specializing in communication that improves the bottom line. She can be reached at 416-966-5023 or hwilkie@mhwcom.com.

 

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