Heather Foley outlines the key things you should be doing to ensure your next meeting is a success.
1. Plan and prepare with firm objectives in mind
First of all, you need to plan and prepare for your meeting. Do this with the objectives of the meeting in mind.
Make sure you are clear about what needs to be achieved. Prepare the agenda and any accompanying materials. Then send these out to the participants, allowing plenty of time for them to prepare too.
Your team will expect good preparation from you, so make it clear that you expect the same from them.
2. Don’t sway from your agenda
Start the meeting on time and ensure that you manage the time throughout the meeting. Introduce the minute taker and attendees (if necessary) and then open the meeting by stating its purpose and objective.
Deal with any latecomers after the meeting and don’t make any time allowances for their lateness. You shouldn’t sway from your agenda.
3. Make sure the meeting achieves its aims
As a chairperson, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the meeting achieves its aims. It should have been called for a specific purpose and all of the discussion that takes place needs be steered to this end.
In practice, this is a demanding task. You may have a room full of strong personalities to deal with. Whoever the audience is, you will need to be in charge.
4. Control any discussions using techniques such as brainstorming
Introduce each item, its objective and how it will be managed.
Control any discussions using techniques such as brainstorming, before discussing pros and cons and coming to a conclusion.
5. Be assertive and make sure that everyone has a chance to speak
Ensuring that everyone gets a fair hearing will prevent any one individual from dominating the proceedings. The more contentious the issue is, the more likely you are to need firmness.
Once you provide the opening, you need to ensure that there are no interruptions while the next speaker has a say.
6. Allot time to each topic as required
It’s easy for discussion to become fixed on one topic only, dominating the entire meeting, and taking over the agenda.
As chairperson, you should assess the importance of each item on the agenda, and allot time to each topic as required. If one issue begins to take over, you must take control.
7. Agree action points and assign someone to implement them
If possible, don’t allow discussion to result in no decision. The meeting can become very unsatisfactory and your attendees will lose faith in you as meeting leader.
Agree action points, making sure that someone is appointed to implement them, and that there is a deadline for this implementation.
8. Summarise to clarify the decisions that have been made
Summarising can be used to end a topic, or a discussion.
It is also useful at the end of the meeting, to ensure that everyone has a clear overview of what took place and what action is now required.
It is an invaluable skill for a chairperson.
9. Leave your own opinions to one side
A chairperson is rather like a judge in a court. They should ensure that all participants have an opportunity to express their points of view.
Although it is challenging at times, you need to ensure that you leave your own opinions to one side.
10. Ask open-ended questions to tease out reasoning
Finally, ensure that you model good meeting behaviour and accept nothing less from colleagues.
Take a positive part in the activity, be generous with ideas, and listen to others. Ask open-ended questions to tease out reasoning and to involve everyone in the meeting.
Whilst meetings may not be the most exciting activity, they are still a very necessary one. And if you’re in a position to chair a meeting, you not only need to get your people on the same page, you also need to keep them there!
Heather Foley is a consultant at ETS, which specialises in 360-degree feedback.