1. Begin promptly and get serious
When it’s time to begin the meeting, do not wait for late comers and do not accommodate stragglers grabbing a last cup of coffee and taking their seat after everyone else. It is important to distinguish the meeting from an informal chat.
2. Value attendance and participation
Thank attendees for their presence and make it clear you expect and appreciate their attention, input and participation. Be firm in shutting down whispering, giggling and such like.
3. Make clear what needs to be done
At the beginning of the meeting, do not simply refer to, or read through, the agenda. Tell your staff exactly what outcomes you expect by the end of the meeting. For example, if on the agenda an item is listed as “selection of new office supplier”, make sure everyone at the meeting understands that in the course of the meeting, an actual decision has to be made as to which company will be handling your office supplies. Otherwise they may think that the matter is simply up for discussion today and a choice will be made in the future. If everyone approaches the discussion knowing a decision must be made today, rather than hemming and hawing, they will get to the decision a lot quicker.
4. Solicit participation
If there is a lack of input, solicit participation from the quieter members of staff by addressing them directly. If you've touched upon the topic with them during a previous conversation, use that as a springboard, for example:
‘John, you raised a good point on this the other day. You mentioned that…’
Similarly, if their expertise is relevant, use that:
‘Sunita, you work in HR and have to access staff data every day. How would the new file management system affect you?’
5. Keep the meeting on track
If certain individuals are dominating the conversation, regain control of the meeting by managing their personalities. Try something like:
“Simon, I can see you've got a lot of ideas about this. What might be best is if we schedule a one-on-one meeting to discuss this at a later date.”
Likewise, if the meeting is veering away from what is on the agenda, employ the ‘parking lot’ technique. At the beginning of the meeting, head a sheet of paper with the words ‘parking lot’. Any issue that is off-topic but still work-related and worthy of discussion should be ‘parked’ (ie. noted on the sheet of paper). They can then be put on the agenda of the next meeting or discussed privately.
6. Prioritize and don't run over time
Stick to the time limit you imposed. It shows you respect your employees’ time and know how to manage your own. It also increases participation and action, as everyone is aware there is only a certain amount of time to get things done. If you are running out of time, jump around the agenda to the most relevant items. Anything else should be discussed at the next meeting, or an additional meeting should be scheduled.
These 6 top tips should help you take control of your meeting and increase efficiency, productivity and participation.
(They can be coupled with our pre-meeting tips which can be found here!)