How many times have you sat through meetings where discussions got off track, tempers flared, and the meeting ran longer than scheduled? These are just some of the frustrations meeting participants feel about a poorly run meeting.
That’s why the second reason your meetings suck the life out of everyone is: poor facilitation.
Last week we looked at the first reason meetings “go bad,” namely poor planning. However, even a well-planned meeting can run into a ditch if there isn’t a strong facilitator to keep the meeting on track. These five tips for facilitating meetings will help you accomplish your goals and respect all participants’ time and input.
1. Get everyone involved.
You invited your meeting PARTICIPANTS (not attendees) for a reason. One of the goals of a meeting leader should be to ensure everyone at the meeting has the opportunity to provide their input. Otherwise, why are they there?
2. Remember you’re a facilitator, not just a participant.
It’s the meeting leader’s job to ensure the meeting stays on track, agenda items are covered, and proper etiquette is maintained during a meeting. A good meeting leader should involve participants in setting ground rules for how meetings will be conducted, including deciding how decisions will be made. A good leader will also set the example of good communication by being assertive, yet polite, listening well, and asking good questions to get the information he or she seeks. Finally, a good leader needs to know how to manage interruptions and conflicts that will inevitably erupt.
3. Ensure agenda topics are covered and goals are achieved.
To keep your meeting agenda on track, it’s a great idea to have a timekeeper. This is someone who can let participants know when they get close to the end of a topic’s assigned discussion time and keep track of the meeting time overall. Sometimes agenda items have to be continued, but a good meeting leader generally has a good grasp on how long a discussion should take- so delaying items for future meeting should be relatively rare. Ensuring agenda items are covered is also a function of ensuring participants realize the importance of doing meeting pre-work and coming to the meeting prepared to accomplish the tasks (brainstorming, decision making, informing, etc.,) that were outlined in the agenda.
4. Be prepared to manage poor meeting behavior.
For anyone who has ever attended a meeting, it shouldn’t be a surprise that things go wrong. A meeting leader should be able to anticipate the most common difficult situations and be prepared to handle them accordingly. Things such as ongoing conflict between participants, controversial meeting topics, and participants with bad habits (stage-hogging, arguing, interrupting, venting, getting off track) are all things a leader can prepare in advance to handle.
5. Start and end the meeting on time.
Regardless of whether all participants have arrived yet, meeting leaders should start meetings on time. Delaying the start of a meeting tells those who are late, “It’s okay, we’ll wait for you.” Not a good habit to get into. If someone is chronically late, be sure to address the issue with him or her privately. Don’t ignore the behavior. If the behavior doesn’t change, be ready to replace participants who cannot be on time. They can’t contribute if they’re not present, so there’s no point in continuing to invite them.
Finally, unless there’s a compelling reason to continue, you should end meetings on time. People plan their day around when the facilitator says the meeting is going to end. A meeting leader who allows a meeting to run past the end time ruins everyone’s schedule. If you don’t have time to get through your agenda, plan better next time.
Here’s a quick video where I explain how to make your meetings more effective:
Next week I’ll share the third and final reason your meetings suck . . . the life out of everyone: poor follow up!
In case you missed part 1, catch up here.