Leading A Meeting

Ever been to a meeting that feels like a bit of a waste of time? Badly chaired, poorly timed, dominated by the loudest voice, lacking in purpose, direction and outcome! Meetings that start late, run over time or don’t complete the agenda at all (assuming there is an agenda!). And what’s more, nothing ever happens as a result anyway! Well, not in your meetings…

1). Firstly, do you really need this meeting or is it just that it’s on the calendar so must happen? Can it be done in another way (eg e-mail, personal discussion)? If you do need to convene a meeting, make sure the attendees are clear about the purpose, the agenda, their role and the intended outcomes.

2). Prepare well…

  • Book a room/venue with appropriate seating and tables etc
  • Organise refreshments if necessary – even if it’s only water!
  • Draw up an agenda and send out in advance, including approximate timings
  • Choose the date and time of the meeting carefully so that all can attend
  • Communicate well in advance and send a reminder e-mail on the day or just before
  • Make sure you have enough copies of any paperwork for the attendees

3). Allocate clear roles as necessary. You are the Chair, but do you need a minute-taker, a time-keeper, a technician, a refreshment replenisher…etc?!

4). As a general rule, try not to table papers at the meeting; send out in advance wherever possible to give colleagues the chance to read, think and prepare. Attendees may wish to consider questions in advance.

5). Model good professional behaviours:

  • Print spare agendas
  • Be there in good time to welcome attendees
  • Ensure technology is ready and working
  • Start and finish on time
  • Always be polite, open-minded and fair to all attendees
  • Encourage views from all participants, where possible
  • Summarise regularly
  • Keep it pacy, relevant, focused on the matter in hand

6). Ask for A.O.B items to be declared either before or at the beginning of the meeting so that you can manage the time available accordingly.

7). Make sure that as Chair, you keep discussions focused on the agenda items. No chit chat… No ‘meetings-within-meetings’… You may need to be pleasantly and charmingly assertive should this happen!

8). Stick broadly to the timings indicated – and don’t be afraid to move the meeting on if you need to.

9). Be inclusive: ensure that the meeting is not dominated by any one individual. Invite comments/opinions from quieter attendees – often the pearls of wisdom come from these people!

10). For most meetings, it’s good practice to produce Minutes (or at the very least an Action Sheet that records agreed actions as opposed to the entire debate). Record actions clearly, stating WHAT IS TO BE DONE, BY WHOM and BY WHEN. Send out the minutes promptly afterwards and revisit the minutes/actions at the start of the next meeting (if it is part of a set of scheduled meetings).

Good Luck!

“I like X’s meetings: they are always well-paced, purposeful, decisive and productive. At least we get to start on time, have our say, and finish on time too!”