Stop Leading Your Meetings Like an Amateur

Meetings and conference calls suck up our time.

Child With Laptop, Little Boy In Glasses Happy Amazed Looking AtIf your meetings are unruly and unproductive, you’re wasting people’s time. It doesn’t reflect well on you.

Save your reputation. A few minutes of meeting  preparation and planning on the front end will save you countless headaches on the back end.

You know it’s time to up your game if …

  1. You’re unsure of what it means to be a meeting leader/facilitator. If you set up and invite people to a meeting, you’re the default leader or facilitator (unless you designate someone else). Meetings don’t run themselves. Someone needs to be accountable to define the purpose, create the agenda, kickoff the meeting and conduct it to ensure objectives are met.
  2. You didn’t clarify the purpose of the meeting. It’s frustrating to be invited to a meeting but have no idea what the meeting is about – or if it makes sense to even participate. As a meeting organizer, state “The purpose of this meeting is to …” clearly and concisely in your email, text, or calendar invite. Your invitees will appreciate it.
  3. You don’t have an agenda. An agenda doesn’t have to be detailed or elaborate. A few bullet points guiding the topics, decisions and questions to address are sometimes all you need. Ideally, distribute the agenda before the meeting, review it again as you kickoff the meeting, and ask if there’s anything people want to add.
  4. The meeting easily veers off track. One of the most important roles of a facilitator is to listen. When a conversation is heading into the weeds, or a discussion is wandering away from the purpose, the facilitator needs to say what they see before it’s too late. “We’ve been talking for a while on this point and I want to make sure we hit the other topics on the agenda. I suggest we move on and add this to next week’s agenda.”
  5. You let disruptive behavior fester. Dominators, naysers, silent plotters and ramblers are often the reasons meetings fail. Use ground rules to set expectations and facilitation techniques that ensure balanced participation
  6. You start late and end late. As the leader, people are looking to you to start the meeting on time and end on time.
  7. Your meetings are too long. There’s no rule that a meeting must be 60 minutes. Experiment with 30-minute meetings and see what happens. With a clear purpose, well thought-out agenda and targeted facilitation techniques, you might be able to skim a lot of fat.

Marta Steele is a partner @People_Results. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele.