When you’re first asked or required to run a meeting, you’ll probably feel a bit anxious. But it can be a bit like giving a presentation, with more experience you don’t get so nervous. But what will help is having some understanding of the dynamics of effective meetings, so read on for some quick tips on running a productive meeting.
Formal and informal meetings
Meetings can be formal or informal, and can be conducted for different purposes. If you were a company director, then you would be attending much more formal Board meetings that require motions to be put forward and seconded, with strict control maintained by the chair.
Thee more formal meetings in the workplace will have a structure that is determined by the meeting agenda, which comprises the list of items that the meeting intends to address. Each of these items will typically have an estimated time duration allocated to them and the name of the person who will speak to the item. Post-meeting there will be minutes of the meeting distributed to the participants, which contain a summary of agreed decisions and any action points arising from the meeting.
These meetings tend to be more informal and free-flowing in nature, so as to encourage creative thinking. Remember the rules of brainstorming are to keep things moving, initially focus on generating lots of ideas without judging them – and the wilder the better!
However, in the workplace if you are running the weekly or monthly team meeting, then the tone of your meetings will be somewhere in between formal and informal. The meeting will certainly need to have some structure to it so that time is not wasted, but it will also be somewhat relaxed so as to encourage participation.
There are meetings you’ve probably attended that you felt were a total waste of time. This may have been because the meeting was poorly chaired and not properly controlled, or perhaps the meeting was unnecessary with no clear purpose to it. Or perhaps participants had not prepared adequately for the meeting and therefore could not make meaningful contributions. Also, particularly watch out for failing to start and finish the meeting on time!
Define the meeting purpose
When thinking about how to run a meeting, one of the core and fundamental questions to ask yourself is what you are seeking to achieve. There may be one objective to the meeting, or there could be several – depending upon what items may be on your meeting agenda.
For example, an individual meeting agenda item could be designed to either:
- Provide information, for example about a forthcoming change or a status report on a project
- Make a decision as a team
- Seek people’s opinions on an issue
- Solve a problem
- Formulate an action plan
- Evaluate progress
Leading the meeting
The main things to remember when you’re leading the meeting are to:
- Keep the meeting “on-track”. In other words, remind participants of the purpose of the meeting if they start to wander off-topic during any discussion
- Encourage and create opportunities for all participants to contribute their thoughts. However, not everyone will necessarily want to voice an opinion
- If there is an agenda, keep an eye on the time allocation for each item and control any discussion around the time allocation
- Be careful of dominating – your job is to guide, facilitate and prompt discussion – and to keep things moving. Rarely is the purpose of a meeting to simply “rubber stamp” your opinions.
And finally, here’s a short video clip with a few more quick tips on how to run an effective meeting that actually delivers worthwhile outcomes.
Return to Management skills development