Some people believe their role as meeting leader gives them a license to dominate, while others approach the job as “schoolteacher” or “scoutmaster.” Committing any of these meeting “crimes” guarantees you’ll turn off—even offend—attendees.
With the didactic approach, you’re probably intent on getting others to do what you determine to be the best course of action. With the scoutmaster approach, you’re likely trying to gain group satisfaction, without appropriate emphasis on action or results.
In reality, the chair should be more servant than master, judiciously dealing with the two key components of successful meetings: topics and attendees.
Dealing with Topics
As I mentioned in my previous two posts here and here, clearly state the meeting’s goal at the outset. Listen carefully to attendee comments so you can keep meetings focused on the objective. It’s your job to ensure that participants:
- Stick to the defined topics
- Have the required information
- Understand the issues
Be on the lookout for points that can be emphasized during an interim summary. You can summarize each time you need to move on to the next item on the agenda.
Know when to close a discussion and move on. Perhaps a topic cannot be resolved because more facts are required, other people need to be present, more time is needed or issues can be settled outside the meeting. Don’t postpone decisions, however, just because they’re difficult, likely to be disputed or unpopular.
Provide a clear, brief summary before adjourning. Reiterate action steps and attendees’ specific commitments.
Dealing with Attendees
Encourage a clash of ideas, but not a clash of personalities. There will always be people who dominate meetings, while others remain passive and silent.
Reframe complaints as challenges or opportunities for improvement. Use humor appropriately, and keep the discussion moving toward its objectives.
Above all, don’t allow energy to fizzle. Seize opportunities to inspire people with questions and challenges. Don’t waste people’s time with meetings that go nowhere nor schedule them when you’ve already achieved consensus.
Don’t be afraid to stir things up when a little jolt is required; you cannot achieve the meeting’s objectives without engaging attendees’ full participation.
What are your useful tips for getting more out of meetings? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment, or share this post with others.