Meeting Maestro

The ability to run a good meeting is widely regarded as a hallmark of a competent leader. Meetings are important forums for communication and the development of goals and strategies that will move an organization forward. When designed and conducted correctly, they promote understanding and cooperation and lay the groundwork for productive and satisfying teamwork. Yet unfortunately, many meetings are useless time-wasters that result less in action and more in frustration.

I facilitate meetings for a living, mostly strategy planning, at for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and I think part of the reason I’ve chosen this path is because I’ve been forced to attend so many meetings that have been a huge waste of time that years later, the bad memories continue to haunt me.

Respectfully, I offer suggestions on how to run meetings that will make you look good, from pre-meeting preparation to your opening remarks and the adjournment.

I. Create an agenda

Participants want to know what to expect and understand why they’ve been asked to attend.

II. Arrange a convenient date, time and place

Send an email and propose two or three possible meeting dates and times. If there are any on your invite list who must be in attendance, clear the dates with them first, then invite a wider circle.

III. Reserve meeting room and A/V equipment

It is advisable to check the availability of the preferred meeting location first, before specifics are confirmed. Next, quickly reserve the room and the audiovisual equipment that you will AV Integrator rooms use (screen, microphone, podium, LCD for Power Point, etc.).

IV. Invite stakeholders only

Participants want to feel that their presence at the meeting is crucial to the development of a resolution. Be selective in whom you include; most meetings should not be open forums. Invite stakeholders— those who care about the outcome of the matter under discussion and are willing and able to contribute to its resolution. If food will be served, place the order, based on the initial RSVPs.

V. Send a meeting reminder, attach the agenda and hand-outs

Two or three days before the meeting, send out a reminder and attach the agenda and meeting hand-outs. Just before you send out the reminder, confirm that all meeting equipment and supplies will be in the room. Confirm the RSVP count for the food.

VI. Verify that A/V equipment works

Audiovisual equipment loves to malfunction. On meeting day, arrive 45-60 minutes early and do a test run. Your mission is to make the transition from participant arrival to the meeting’s start seamless.

VII. Bring hard copies of the agenda and hand-outs

Precious few people will print out the meeting materials and bring them along.

VIII. Start on time

Be respectful of the participant’s time. Starting 5 minutes late is OK, start sooner if all have arrived.

IX. Welcome and purpose statement

Thank everyone for making the time to attend and then state what the meeting will help to achieve. Keep the purpose statement simple, ideally something that can be stated in two or three sentences, tops.

X. Encourage participation

Bringing out good ideas is what meetings are all about: capitalizing on the creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity that group synergy can produce.

XI. De-fuse agitators and hijackers

Meeting hogs are to be discouraged. There may be someone in the room (alas, perhaps an ally) who is genius at pulling the meeting off-agenda and dragging it into the weeds to discuss subjects that may be worthwhile, but would be best discussed in another venue. Should this occur, thank the person for bringing it up, since it’s probably related to the main topic, but state that time must be devoted to the agenda and other matters would benefit from discussion in another meeting.

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