Tips for Leading a Successful Meeting

March 8, 2019

Effective meetings are synonymous with good management and leadership. Here is what you need to know to lead a meeting successfully.

Prepare for the Meeting:

  • Set an agenda. You should do this at least a week in advance. You might want to ask attendees for any items they would like included. This will help the meeting stay on point.
  • Set a specific time for the meeting to start and end, plus send a meeting notice to attendees.
  • Pick the setting. Do you want a room with a circular table, a rectangular table or an auditorium type arrangement? Different settings will convey different meanings to attendees.
  • Make personal notes on each of the agenda items. What results do you need from a discussion on this item? Also, consider the item’s priority in relation to other items and allocate time accordingly.
  • Assign someone to take notes or minutes for the meeting.
  • And finally, don’t forget to dress the part. Make sure you look like a leader on the day of the meeting.

Open the Meeting:

Now you are ready to hold your meeting. When you open the meeting:

  • Set a positive, can-do attitude. Your voice and body language should reflect this. Be open, direct, well organized and upbeat in your opening minutes.
  • Start on time.
  • Distribute copies of the agenda.
  • Welcome the attendees and make any necessary introductions.
  • State the purpose and the desired outcomes of the meeting. Also, restate the time frame. If attendees know there is a strict end-time, they will be more likely to stay on track.

Hold the Meeting:

  • Follow agenda items one-by-one and in order. Stick to your allocated time frame for each item. A good portion of running a successful meeting is time management.
  • Encourage contributions in an orderly manner. Remember to praise (or criticize) ideas and not people. Know how to guide the conversation through questions, and how to bring a derailed meeting back on track.
  • At the end of each item, summarize the discussion briefly and state the decision or consensus. List the action steps for each agenda item and identify the point person or people.
  • Deal with problem situations efficiently. The most common type of problem situations during a meeting is conflict and resistance. To deal effectively with conflict, remember to not get pulled into the emotion, rather concentrate on dispersing it. Focus on positive future solutions and not the immediate conflict between team members, and continually repeat the goal of sticking to the objectives outlined at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Manage problem attendees.

Here are four types of problem attendees and how to handle them:

  1. Engage the disinterested by asking them a direct question.
  2. If someone attempts to hijack the meeting with tangential or unrelated items, appeal to the agenda and insist on staying to it.
  3. To deal efficiently with a chatter mouth, appeal to the clock and staying on schedule.
  4. Give know-it-alls something to do (like taking the meeting notes).

Close the Meeting:

Here are some things to remember when closing the meeting:

  • Frame (or re-frame) the meeting. If it was a tough meeting with lots of fall-out, now is the time to put the positive, can-do spirit back into the meeting. Attendees need to leave feeling motivated and inspired to tackle their action lists.
  • As you summarized each agenda item you will now want to summarize the meeting in full. List achievements, outcomes, and goals. Make sure people are on-board, know what they need to do, and are committed to take action.
  • Thank all of the attendees for their efforts.
  • Decide upon the date and time of the next meeting.
  • Finally, follow up the meeting with a written list of outcomes and action items. Make sure to include the party/parties accountable and deadlines.

You now have the basics for leading a successful meeting. For more detailed information about handling one-on-one meetings, click here.


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