Most of us would have participated in a business meeting in some form and some of us would have taken minutes or even chaired the meeting. We can all recall someone being late to the meeting and a meeting not finishing on time. So what are the secrets of leading an effective business meeting should you find yourself in that situation?
Beginning and finishing meetings on time
Easier said than done – always begin the meeting on time. This way attendees will learn to join your meetings on time.
- Start with less important items, use housekeeping as one of the first points in the agenda.
- Stick to the agenda; remind everyone on agenda items being discussed.
- Speed up the pace when necessary; it’s also okay to skip unnecessary items to ensure the meeting is finished on time – schedule a follow up meeting if needed.
- Provide regular breaks.
Every meeting should start with setting the tone of the meeting by way of giving an opening statement. Welcome everyone and thank for attending. Provide an overview of goal of meeting and then review previous meeting minutes.
Middle of the meeting
This is the meet of every meeting and your task as a meeting organiser and chair is to keep the meeting on track. Going into more details as to how to achieve this in a real meeting scenario:
- Ask questions. Begin with general questions to break the ice especially when the people and topics are unfamiliar. Get acquainted with one another by making everyone introduce themselves which will help participants get over anxiety and focus on the meeting goals. Move onto asking direct questions. This will ensure more even participation encouraging and singling out people who are under contributing.
- Groupthink. Given that groupthink is defined as “a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome.“, it is important to nip it in the bud.
– Ask participants to explain the good and the weak points of the proposed idea. Let participants know not to worry about the time constraints which will stop them from making a decision just so the meeting is completed on-time.
- Some of the tools to increase effectiveness is to use the whiteboard or flip chart in smaller areas as well as the overhead projectors.
Leading Video or Telephone Conference
Not seeing participants in person adds a further layer of complexity when leading a meeting over a geographical distance and here are some tips to make those gatherings effective as well:
- make sure one person is speaking at one time
- be a leader and a moderator and control the pace
- make a transition from one speaker to another
- ask participants to speak clearly and pause periodically to make sure everyone is keeping up with the discussion
Decision making meetings
As the name suggests, the goal of these meetings is to yield a decision as a conclusion of the meeting. There are 3 methods of reaching a decision making objective.
Method 1 – goal is to reach consensus in a team, an unanimous decision and you can start by asking participants what they prefer, eliminating unpopular options. Compromise using creative thinking. If method 1 doesn’t yield a decision use:
Method 2 – this method promotes majority vote. Write down favourite options that would have been worked during the method 1 and put those to a vote – most voted option wins. Should this not produce an end decision go to the next method.
Method 3 – Executive decision. Get the line manager to make and executive decision. Get the departmental manager and call on him to make a decision that a group will accept.
Problem solving meetings
As a meeting organiser/leader set a positive tone and meeting focus by saying something like ‘we have an opportunity today to find some solutions and make some changes in the way we’ve been doing things’.
Then, state the problem together by saying something like ‘you’re free to express your views and not to judge each others statements, I’m jotting down each point of view so we can look at them more closely. After recording each opinion, ask participants what they think the solutions are.
Meeting end – summarise and set a day and time for next meeting.
(some common meeting terms: set rules of order (ground rules), call the meeting to order – to announce that a meeting is about to begin, minutes are read, motions are made and discussed, votes are taken).