How to lead a meeting: 10 tips on how to do it effectively
With our hectic day-to-day life, being in a dull, unproductive meeting is a huge no. We’ve all been there. So, if you’re looking for a guide that will teach you how to lead a meeting, you’re in the right place.
How do you feel when you arrive on time to a meeting only to have the meeting start 15 minutes late? The agenda? Unclear. The person in charge? Unsure. Then the crazy mess begins – people speaking all at the same time, vomiting ideas, as you silently lament your lost time.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Meetings are supposed to get people together to discuss problems, solve them and come up with new ideas and solutions.
They also can allow you to create deeper connections with your colleagues and improve professional relationships. But this must be done in an organized and systematic way.
If you’re the meeting organizer, you must take the time to make your meeting useful to those attending, you’ll see how engagement happens naturally!
But how can you make sure the meeting serves its purpose, whilst you value everyone’s special time? Here are our 10 tips and tricks on how to lead a meeting effectively.
How to lead a meeting in 10 steps
1. Set the agenda
“Give me an agenda or else I’m not going to sit there, because if I don’t know why we’re in the meeting, then there’s no reason for a meeting.” — Annette Catino, chief executive of the QualCare Alliance Network.
No meetings can be productive if the people attending don’t know what is happening. Even though it may seem obvious, a lot of meetings start with no clear sense of purpose.
The agenda sets the tone for the whole conversation; if people lose track of the discussion, it becomes a lot easier to get back into it.
If the meeting organizer makes sure there is an agenda before the meeting starts, everyone will fall in line quickly.
2. Allow everyone to participate
Most of the time, just one or two people in the meeting talk the entire time and dominate the whole conversation. To prevent this from happening, assign relevant roles, topics, or updates that each participant (or most) can share with everyone.
With participants taking more of an active role, they’re much more likely to pay attention and feel empowered by the new responsibility.
This also allows you to analyze the people attending and make sure you’re only inviting those who really need to attend. Most people want to discuss things that affect their work directly. So, if you’re the one evoking the meeting, take the time to consider if the issue affects the people you’re inviting.
Note: This is one of the main challenges of working remotely – remote meetings. If your meeting is going to have people who are remoting, please make sure you don’t forget them. There are a lot of tools to manage remote employees and lead online meetings that are going to help you.
3. Start and end on time
How many times have you attended a meeting and had to wait for the person in charge to show up? Far too many. It’s the most draining thing ever, takes away all the energy you must attend the meeting. It mostly happens with people in positions of power, and it’s a terrible habit.
“Sorry, today has been super hectic, and I barely have any time left to do anything”. We’ve all heard this before. Is it just that they’re so busy? Or is there a small thrill in keeping everyone waiting for them, a reminder that their time is somehow more valuable than everyone else’s?
The point is that everyone’s time is precious. Don’t keep people waiting for you. However, just as important as starting on time is ending on time.
As you create your agenda and schedule your talking points, determine how long you will discuss each topic and allocate your time accordingly. You can do it by using timeboxing time management method or time blocking technique.
4. Respect people’s time
On the same note as the point before, respecting people’s time is extremely important. In the book High Output Management, Andy Grove argues that wasting employees’ time is the same as stealing money from your company.
Pointless meetings are one of the biggest time wasters at work, and they can strongly damage your business financially.
According to Insider, about 11 million meetings occur in America every day, and a third of them are unproductive. It comes at a cost: an estimated $37 billion is lost every year to unproductive meetings. Can you believe it?
So, make sure you create that meeting agenda to stay focused on the meeting’s purpose and avoid digressions. Also, emphasize the importance of punctuality.
5. Adopt a clear communication style
As the leader of the meeting, it’s important to articulate the ideas and opinions clearly and succinctly. This will encourage others to do the same and keep everything a lot simpler and clearer.
Avoid relying too heavily on technical terms, people will get bored easily! Suggest new solutions to the problems and focus on what can be done, rather than what can’t. Be optimistic! It’ll help to promote a positive environment between the people attending and make the whole meeting much more enjoyable.
6. Be firm but also flexible
As each agenda point is discussed throughout the meeting, new issues or topics of discussion are likely to come up. If relevant to all the attendees and pertinent to the objectives of the meeting, it’s a good idea to explore these new topics, if you have time. Remember, always make sure you’re able to end the meeting on time.
It’s extremely important to ensure that the discussion does not stray too far from the planned agenda. Don’t forget, that everyone’s time is precious and must be respected.
If during the meeting you think that time is passing by too quickly and you don’t have the opportunity to discuss these issues, suggest that you talk about them with the relevant individuals after the meeting.
As the leader, you should manage time within the meeting effectively. Refer to the timeframes you included in the agenda to make sure that each point is addressed within the time allocated. If you need extra help, using a time management app will most definitely help you be more organized and effective.
7. Allow some time for brainstorming and open conversation
Making people feel like they have a say and that their opinions matter. It’ll only contribute to making people feel good.
The good thing about meetings is that they bring people together and allows people to create connections. Brainstorming is an essential part of that.
Allocate time in your agenda for open discussion and give the group the time and freedom to share individual perspectives and bounce thoughts
Make sure you let people engage in conversation and let them debate about different topics of discussion. It’ll make them feel appreciated. Getting input from everyone will keep people involved.
8. Share meeting notes
In her book Resilient Management, a good book on productivity, management coach and trainer Lara Hogan says that sending out a recap email after each meeting is a great way to reinforce decisions and clarify the final decisions that were made.
“I love the practice of repeating decisions or actions after a meeting with a recap email,” she said. “This communication method harnesses all of the email’s power for good: it helps set the record straight, disseminates information to lots of people at once, and opens up conversation internally, while reflecting on the themes that have come up for you in weekly 1:1s, backchannels, team meetings, etc.”
These types of e-mails can be a good reminder of the things that were discussed and the next steps the team agreed on. This way, everyone can have that information and work from it.
9. Request the team’s feedback
When was the last time someone asked for your feedback on a certain topic at work? Every employee would like for their managers to request some input from their side. It means they care. That they value their opinion. So, if you’re in the position to do it, just do it!
Ask your employees what they think you could improve. Questions like:
- Should this meeting have been shorter? Longer?
- How could we have made this meeting more effective? Any ideas?
- What was the best part of this meeting, in your opinion?
So simple, yet so effective and important. Your employees might have some great ideas that could help you improve how you lead a meeting.
At the same time, respecting their preferences may result in increased productivity and motivation from their side. Why?
Imagine that you have employees who complain about the workload because they don’t have time to do what’s planned because they’re spending a lot of time in meetings.
Some of your employees might have ideas to reduce the time they spend in meetings. This will increase their productivity because they’re going to have more time to do what’s planned.
10. Close the meeting effectively
Well, once the agenda points have been covered, and all the questions have been answered, it’s important to bring the meeting to a logical conclusion.
Also, make sure that if any issues couldn’t be resolved within the meeting’s allocated timeframe, you write down who is responsible for carrying out each task and decide on the timeframe. This way, nothing is forgotten, and everyone takes some ownership and responsibility.
If you’re preparing a meeting, you might be interested in how to end a meeting. There you’ll learn everything you need to stand out.
Learning how to lead a meeting isn’t easy. It requires organization, preparation, and focus.
Don’t forget that you must value everyone’s time and you should go prepared. Be clear, precise, and concise. It can be challenging at first, but with time and our tips, you can become an expert meeting leader.
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