Far too many business meetings are swamped with trivia and social conversations, accomplishing nothing more than deciding the date of the next meeting. These meetings go off the rails because of a lack of leadership and direction. However, chairing a focused, effective business meeting is a skill that can be learned. If you want to make your meetings more productive, read on to learn the rules for chairing effective meetings.
Be Clear about the Purpose of the Meeting
You need more than just a topic if you want to hold an effective meeting. You need to know exactly how you need to grapple with that topic. The first thing you need to do is decide if you are going to brainstorm a lot of new ideas, work out the details of a single idea, or discuss the implications of the topic, for instance.
Create an agenda for the meeting well before holding it. Once you create one, it will be easy to see which supporting papers need to be prepared and circulated in time for others to study them in advance. If everyone shows up to the meeting well-informed, it will be a lot easier to get right down to business. You also need to set explicit parameters for what you intend to accomplish at the meeting.
Check Your Ego at the Door
There is no room for your ego when you chair a business meeting. Your purpose is to facilitate the development of new ideas, not to put yourself forward. The most effective facilitators are the ones who spend most of their time listening. When you do speak, ask open ended questions to encourage the development of attendees’ reasoning and to get everyone involved.
Keep the Introductions Short
While it helps to make sure that everyone at a meeting knows each other, you can’t afford to have your meetings devolve into social situations. Clearly set out what kind of introductions you want out of everyone at the start of the meeting, including a time scale: “Please say who you are and give a brief description of your experience in under a minute.”
Have High Expectations
Expect a lot out of the people who come to the meeting. Don’t start the meeting late to accommodate people who show up late, or everyone will assume that showing up late is OK. Never read out the materials that you told everyone to read beforehand, or you’ll send the message that nobody needs to prepare. Finally, be strict about the end time, too, to show that you intend for everyone to keep things moving along.
Get Everyone Involved
Some people have a hard time speaking up or putting themselves forward, even if they have good ideas. If you want to get the most out of your meetings, you need to get everyone involved. Ask questions of the people who are not actively taking part in the meeting. If some people are dominating the meeting, ask the people who are staying silent for their take on the dominant talkers’ ideas.
Set a Good Example
Set a good example for meeting behavior. That way, you are not only communicating the behavior you want to see at your meetings, but you will also have the moral authority to demand it.
Remember, as chairperson of a meeting, you are the one who sets the tone and determines the process. If you follow the rules described above, your meetings will always be fast and effective.