"Meeting!" written in day planner with pen and post-its

How to Conduct an Effective Meeting

I’ve suffered through…um, I mean participated in many, many meetings in my professional lifetime. Some good, some not so good, some outright painful. Here are some pleas…um, I mean tips, on how to conduct an effective meeting.

Start on time

It’s a busy day – you have many tasks that need to be accomplished. You stop in the middle of a project to attend a meeting that’s supposed to start at 10:00. At 10:10, people are still chatting amongst themselves. Now please don’t get me wrong – I’m the first one to say I love to visit, and I think networking is great, but there’s a time and place. Don’t waste my time, please! My favorite committee is the one that has a leader who begins promptly at the given time, even if there’s only one member present. This leader values our time and knows we all have other things that need to be attended to. We get down to business, get it done, and are able to get back to our projects in a timely manner. Which leads me to my second tip…

Have an agenda and follow it

The benefit of developing an agenda is it will allow you to stay on task during your meeting. Also, in the process of creating it, you can determine who needs to be in attendance, and who doesn’t, thus alleviating that “well, I didn’t really need to be here” feeling. You may find your list of things to accomplish is not long enough to warrant a meeting. In this case, give all the participants the gift of an hour back to their day.

Introduce participants and make them feel welcome

Whenever you form a new committee, never assume that all participants know each other. Take the time to go around the table with introductions. You might even want to consider a simple icebreaker. One of my favorites is two truths and a lie – everyone says three things about themselves, one of which is made up. For example; my name is Ann, I work for Columbia College, I was the Pancake Day Queen 1st runner up in 1976 and I have a scar on my chin from square dancing. (You’ll find out the lie at the end of this blog).

Don’t allow side conversations

If you’re in charge of the meeting, stay in charge of the meeting! I get it – adults need to process information, and it’s easy to do so sitting shoulder to shoulder with others. However, side conversations are distracting. If a side conversation ensues, simply stop talking and wait until those having the ancillary discussion realize they are the only two in the room doing so. Then get back to the business at hand.

Send minutes out after the meeting

Take notes or assign a note taker. Are you starting to catch the underlying theme to all of these tips - do not allow a meeting to be a waste of time!! By taking notes and sending minutes afterward, everyone stays informed, follow-up tasks are accomplished, and no one feels their time was wasted. Oh, and by the way, they’ll be more willing to participate in subsequent meetings you conduct.

End on time

When people accept an hour meeting, they expect to be finished in an hour. If meetings go over time, people generally tend to get agitated, sleepy, bored or all of the above. Remember the old adage: “The mind can only absorb what the behind can endure”.

Follow these tips and I believe you’re pretty much guaranteed a successful meeting. And if you guessed that my lie was being 1st runner up for Pancake Day Queen, you’re correct!

What are your meeting pet peeves? Feel free to share them with me.

Workforce, Meetings, Leadership, Teamwork, Coworkers

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Portrait of Ann Merrifield