Meetings are a way of life for many of us. We sit through so many of them every week! If you’ve really observed your meetings, you will see that there are great meeting facilitators. On the other hand, there are those that could use some help keeping the momentum going.
When you get a chance to oversee the meeting, decide to become one of the great facilitators. Your team will thank you for properly preparing. With proper planning, you’ll be able to achieve more in your meetings once you find your groove.
Meeting facilitation and presentation is one of those great soft skills to possess. Employers are always searching for great communicators.
Now, let’s help you wrangle in your next meeting and get you off to a great start.
Send out an itinerary
The best meetings I have been a part of:
- have included an itinerary, and
- it was sent to attendees ahead of time
Set the expectation, the itinerary should be reviewed before the meeting. This way everyone will be on the same page from the start.
Imagine being caught off guard, because an itinerary never got sent out. You were unknowingly expected to share an update in the meeting. It would be a difficult situation, when you don’t have the proper time to prepare data and information. Don’t make someone look and feel unprepared by doing this.
Providing an itinerary ahead of a meeting gives people a chance to:
- make last minute important adds
- adjust their time if needed
- wait on discussing an item until a future meeting
This will help you keep your meeting on track and helps everyone prepare as best as they can.
During your meeting, keep the itinerary in view to help the team stay focused and on track.
Keep the time
The first and most important part of keeping the time is to start on-time and end on-time. This is being respectful of your attendee’s time. There is nothing worse than a meeting going over. I’ve been a part of meetings that have gone over by 30 minutes.
This isn’t acceptable in the world of great meeting facilitation!
Start on-time, even if everyone isn’t there. Starting on-time is important to keep everyone on track. People would like to get on with their daily tasks or head home when it is time. Someone being late should not hold that up.
Designate Time Slots
The second part of keeping the time is to designate times for each topic in your meeting. This will keep the discussion flowing and prevent the meeting from stalling on a single subject. Time slots should be on the itinerary. People presenting should have an idea of how much time they have and be mindful of it. There is nothing worse than someone showing up with 10 slides ready to take up 20 minutes. When really, they have a designated window of 10 minutes!
Designating topic times will also help you manage the conversation of the meeting. If you go a little under or over it is fine. The goal is to keep from letting your meeting get hijacked. In every meeting, someone has a great off topic idea they need to bring up. It may be a great idea, but this isn’t the time for brainstorming and working. New ideas should be sent to the parking lot for future discussion (see the next tip!).
When you are planning out your next agenda and assigning time slots, don’t feel pressured to fill your entire meeting time. If the meeting agenda is light that is okay. Go ahead and plan on ending early. Otherwise, meeting attendees will speak up about unnecessary topics to fill the remaining time. Before you know it, the meeting will run over.
Keep a parking lot
You’ve been in meetings where someone gets inspiration and brings a new idea to the table suddenly. They even try to brainstorm the idea further while someone else is giving an update on their assigned topic. Sometimes during a meeting someone is asking questions that are taking the topic in a new direction. The commonality between all these scenarios is that they throw the meeting off track.
Ideas are great, but a meeting is not the time to try to hash out the new details. Everyone wants to give their opinion, and side discussions develop. Inevitably, the itinerary gets thrown off track.
Develop a parking lot to keep your meeting itinerary flowing effectively. The secretary or other designated person should maintain the parking lot. It is essentially a running list of items to visit again in the future. The appropriate team or committee should work out the planning and details behind closed doors. That team can then provide a follow-up or update at a future meeting.
People are generally well meaning. However, this also helps to keep people in their lane. People bringing new ideas to the table is great, because it means that there are new ways to achieve greater results. Keep in mind though that organizations aren’t a free for all. Committees and teams are created for a reason. Someone can bring a great idea to the table and get their credit. However, the appropriate team should take over for examination, research, and implementation.
When a distracting topic arises in your next meeting, thank the person for their input. The topic should be placed in the parking lot, for discussion at a later time. Use the meeting follow-up (see the next tip!) to circle back around and assign additional tasks as appropriate.
It is important to follow-up with attendees within 24 hours after the meeting has ended. This is a great time for a note taker or secretary to distribute the finished meeting notes for everyone to review.
Effective follow-ups highlight the responsibilities and deadlines discussed in the meeting. The best note taking system that I have come across included a section for this topic. It clearly outlined, for example, that “Claudia will research a team volunteer opportunity to present at the next meeting”. Claudia knows what the expectation is, and she can be prepared for the next meeting.
Outline important reminders on the follow-up.
Example: Attendees are supposed to review the budget, by a certain day.
There will be no room for individual interpretation of the meeting or missed information, if you are clearly outlining it in your follow-up. Everyone will be on the same page after they receive this.
Use the follow-up to reach out to individuals who brought up parking lot items. Set up the proper side meetings to explore their suggestions or questions further. Once details are firmed up, and a plan is formed, parking lot items can be moved to itinerary items,
The Take Away
Remember, an organized meeting is a happy meeting. Meetings are great opportunities to bring teams together and work towards a central goal. Many poorly run meetings end up being a waste of time and/or they cause frustration within the team. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Make your meetings powerful and productive. Keep the meeting on track by implementing these changes to how information is presented and received.
These tips will help your team look forward to the work that they are doing.
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