Running an engaging meeting

“At today’s meeting, I’ll be reading the slides word for word.”

In this post, we look at running an engaging meeting that will support your overall goals.

  1. Own your meeting

You’ve called people together. It’s your responsibility to make the meeting successful. If you have added items to the agenda, take ownership of these and get them through. If you have prepared well, these items should be the most straightforward of the day.

  1. Bring a minute-taker

You can’t chair a meeting effectively and take the minutes yourself. Bring a minute-taker and empower them to check they have recorded the decisions correctly before you move on to the next agenda item. In this way, you can create an accurate record of your meeting that everyone has agreed as the meeting progresses. This includes assigning tasks and timeframes to the right people during the meeting.

  1. Reward the punctual

Always start the meeting on time. Begin by welcoming everyone and ensuring everyone knows everyone else in the room. The next step is to acknowledge traditional Owners of Country, and then step through the agenda.

Go through the minutes of the previous meeting and check the group agrees they are an accurate record. Once the minutes are agreed, check the progress of every action.

  1. Other business

Everyone hates it when, just as a meeting is drawing to a close, someone starts adding extra items to the agenda. Call for ‘other business’ at the beginning of the meeting. Decide if any of these can be considered under items which are already on the agenda. Add any essential items to the end of the agenda – but list the rest for the next meeting. ‘Other business’ should only be for urgent items which have emerged since the papers were sent out. Don’t let people use them to raise personal preoccupations that are best dealt with in another forum.

  1. Pay attention

Watch people’s body-language. Notice:

  • who makes eye contact, with whom and when
  • who are the allies and who are the antagonists – is this stable or does it depend on the matter being discussed
  • who looks uncomfortable and why.

If it’s a long meeting, when people get restless call a break. Make it long enough for people to check their devices and have a chat. A lot of goodwill can be gained in a meeting break. Paying attention is your most important role as chair.

  1. Set the tone

Set the tone yourself. If you are checking emails and not paying attention, you are sending a strong message that you don’t think your own meeting is important. Be involved in every item and take an active part in the discussion.

  1. Give everyone a say

The purpose of a meeting is to allow discussion and information exchange. If only one person is talking, that message can usually be better conveyed in writing.

Some people can talk under wet cement. Others will wait to be invited and yet may have the most important things to say. Make sure everyone’s opinion is heard and taken on board. While it’s essential you steer the meeting, you don’t need to speak all the time to do this.

  1. Push for an agreed decision

You have got the decision-makers at your meeting. While discussion is important, decisions also need to be made now. Push through to a consensus and ensure the decisions are recorded.

  1. Thank people

Acknowledge the time and effort of the people who came to your meeting and thank your staff publicly for running it well.

  1. Act on the actions

It’s essential to get the minutes out as soon as possible after the meeting, while the decisions are still fresh in everyone’s minds. Although the minutes will still be in draft, if they were agreed during the meeting, there should be few changes so people with actions can get them done.

  1. Evaluate

After the meeting, consider thoughtfully and thoroughly what went well and what didn’t. Evaluate your own performance and decide if your meeting was worthwhile. Get feedback from trusted people. Plan for continuous improvement in your meetings.

Finally, if you decide the meetings are a waste of everyone’s time, and nothing can save them, cancel them and find another way to get views heard and decisions made.