Stark Raving Mad At Meetings

August 16, 2011

Meetings, meetings, everywhere!  Between work, school activities, and volunteer commitments, it seems that meetings are a very regular part of my life.  The opportunity to pull a group of people together to focus on an identified cause is a good thing (really, it is!)  However, I am astonished by how frequently the basic principles of running an effective meeting are violated.  Following are 3 important concepts any meeting facilitator should consider:

 1) Start on time.  If the meeting was scheduled to run from 8-10, call it to order at 8:00 a.m. SHARP.  Some participants will likely run late, perhaps with good reason, however the meeting should still begin promptly.  Starting late “to consider those who have not arrived” devalues the importance of those who are present, and sets precedent for mediocre performance.

2) Number Your Documents.  I am almost hesitant to include this on the list since it is so 101 in nature.  However, having seen this violated time and time again tells me it bears repeating.  Consider this common exchange at a meeting:

Chairperson: “Let’s look at the cost data for June sales.  As you can see…”

Participant 1 (interrupts): “Which page is that?”

Chairperson: “The cost data, about the, um (counting pages) ninth page back.”

Participant #2:  “This one? (holding one up for all to see)

Chairperson: “No that’s April sales…turn a couple more back…”

Participant 3: “this one, right?”

Chairperson: “No, they actually look rather similar, look for the one that…”

ARRRGH!   We have just spent 4 minutes of my life that I will never get back, doing something completely unnecessary.  Please, take the time to number all pages, even if you have to hand write them in for the sake of expediency.  Your meeting participants will know exactly where you are at all times, and you will never lose control of the meeting.

3) Equalize the Conversation. Some people like to talk. A LOT. And for any given topic under the sun, there are people who relish the opportunity to debate, dissect, diagnose, argue, and belabor points until others at the table are stark raving mad.  Even those that have great ideas to share are less likely to offers their views for fear that the meeting will go on and on.

As a facilitator, you have a responsibility to equalize the conversation, meaning to temper those that like to dominate discussions and draw out those that are less likely to offer their views.  Getting input from all perspectives is critical, and the facilitator sets the tone for interaction.

So the next time you are in charge of a meeting, consider these 3 items to keep your participants happy and the environment most productive.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Mid & Northern Michigan, providers ofprofessional development and management development courses and information in Mid & Northern Michigan. We would love to connect with you on Facebook.

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