Running a meeting

Do you run business meetings that tend to go overtime and don’t stick to the agenda? How you chair a meeting can impact dramatically on the outcome. From body language to voice tone, here are some tips to help chair with flair.

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Effective meetings rely on many factors – a well-planned and relevant agenda, appropriate participants and a chairperson who keeps things on track and on time, to list just a few.

Heather Dawson, Production Manager at communications consultancy Business Essentials, says there are some basic techniques instrumental in running a successful meeting. Here are her top six tips on how to go about it.

1. Schedule a meeting correctly

It’s all in the planning. Be thoughtful about when you schedule the meeting – don’t assume everyone can or is prepared to remain after regular work hours. Prepare an agenda in advance, focus on key issues only and circulate to all attendees at least 24 hours before the meeting so everyone has a chance to think about agenda items and is prepared for the discussion. Don’t invite people who needn’t be there, or leave out people who should be there.

2. Keep it running on time

Set a strict but realistic timeline for the meeting and keep an eye on the clock. If one issue starts taking up too much time, agree to pursue it with key stakeholders at another time and move on. If extraneous issues are raised, note them down either for the next meeting or to be dealt with separately. Don’t be sidetracked.

3. Take minutes

Appoint someone to take minutes, to be distributed to participants after the meeting as a reminder about discussions at hand and tasks to be performed. Make sure time frames are given to each task allocated as a result of the meeting.

4. Cultivate the sharing of views

Act by example. Show interest in all attendees’ views, address each individual and open their views/questions to the forum, and encourage wide responses. Don’t discount or ignore negative feedback as it might be valuable. If the discussion becomes too heated, insist that the issue is postponed for a separate occasion. The warring parties may cool off and you can offer to speak to each individual in a mediating fashion later, even immediately after the meeting if there’s time.

5. Properly begin and close a meeting

Begin with friendly encouragement towards openness and get down to business quickly. Close with a brief summary of what the meeting has achieved and set a date and time for the next meeting.

6. Body language and voice tips

Develop a friendly, open expression and moderate voice. Meetings are to gain the ideas and opinions of those invited to attend. The more democratic, the more valuable, so encourage participation with open gestures and lots of questions. Don’t use the meeting simply to expound your own thoughts without inviting feedback (you may as well send everyone an email). Avoid closed body language such as crossed arms, arrogant body language such as slouching back in your chair, or gestures such as finger pointing.