Last week, I began a list of 10 tips for leading better meetings. Here are a few more that can keep the energy going on a project that requires meeting time.
Stand-Out Professional Tips for Leading Dynamic and Effective Meetings – Part 2
6. Call, email, or text a reminder about the time and location of the meeting a few days before and the day of the meeting. This will help with attendance. I know it would be nice if everyone kept a calendar and referred to it often and would be responsible to remember to be where they said they would be when they said they would be there. But those people only live in the perfect world in your head. People’s lives are too busy and distracted. To guarantee the best attendance, which will lead to the best discussion, and the best opportunity for efficient decision making, CALL/TEXT/EMAIL people with reminders. The few minutes it will take to do this will save you much more time later. Remind attendees who are making reports at the meeting to send you their reports in writing in advance and to bring hard copies to the meeting.
7. Start the meeting on time, regardless of who is there and who isn’t. This shows respect for those who did show up on time and allows for the process to begin. It will also give you a better chance of ending the meeting on time. This also requires you, the leader, to be EARLY. A leader is always setting the example, whether you think you are or not. Besides, getting there early allows you a chance to make any room arrangement changes, take a deep breath, have your notes and visuals ready before the first person walks in. If everything is in its place, then your focus can be the people when they arrive. Take a moment to greet each one individually. Make them feel noticed, appreciated, and important by calling them by their names, thanking them for attending, and being a good steward of their time. Remember, this is a gathering of PEOPLE, not agenda items. If a meeting is going to run past the stated dismissal time, allow participants the option of staying longer or exiting. Respect the fact that they do have lives beyond your meeting.
8. During discussion times, make sure everyone is heard. Ask specific questions of those not adding to the conversation for their input. If someone is dominating the conversation, make it clear that you need to hear from someone who has not yet spoken to the topic. When a question is asked, allow at least 7 seconds before you utter another word. You know what you meant by your question and you have an idea of the answers you expect. Yet this is new info to the people you’re talking to. Give them a few seconds to let it sink in, to think about it, and then respond. Different personality types process information differently. As an extrovert, I have to force myself to remember that not everyone thinks out loud like I do. The joke–and reality–is that we extroverts don’t know what we think until we say it out loud. And while we’re busy talking–all the time–the introvert is silently screaming, “If you’d be quiet for a minute, I could think and then give you an answer.” It’s OKAY to have silence for a few seconds in a meeting. Besides, during those 7 seconds you can scan the room and gauge people’s facial expressions. Their nonverbal cues will tell you a lot if you’re “listening.” If you want others’ input (and you should), you have to provide a safe space for both speaking and listening.
9. Always allow time in the agenda for making specific assignments to people (each person, if possible) and for scheduling the next 2 meetings. These are vital for helping people feel involved and needed. I have discovered that it is best if you can make assignments throughout the meeting. As soon as a decision is made and an action determined, put a name and deadline on that action right then. Don’t wait till the end of the meeting. Make sure everyone has some type of assignment to carry out–otherwise, why are they on the committee? Also, try not to wait till the end of the meeting to schedule the next 2 meetings. Invariably, someone will have to leave early and won’t get to have input on the date and time of the next meeting and then may not get to be there. Make it a habit to require everyone to bring their personal and organizational calendars to EACH meeting so these decisions can be made with the most input. You can’t have a meeting if you’re the only one who can attend. Once again, while that perfect world in your head allows for the 2nd Tuesday of every month to be set aside for your committee meeting, that’s not reality for most people’s schedules. So, be willing to change it up a bit to accommodate the most people most of the time.
10. Send out the notes of the meeting to the participants as soon as possible with reminders of the next meetings in bold. I also put names in bold next to assignments so if someone scans the notes, they will at least see their name in bold. I put the next meeting date at the top of the email with the notes attached as a separate document. It is also a good idea to copy and paste the notes directly into the email in case someone’s computer doesn’t want to open the attachment. Make it easy on folks to get the information they need. Always include the various ways to contact you so you are just a click or text away.
Those are some of the guidelines I try to incorporate into meetings I lead. I don’t accomplish them 100% of the time, yet I can sure tell a difference when I do! I hope you gleaned at least one new idea to try. Let me know your thoughts, ideas, or questions. I love to hear from my readers!
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