Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tip 4 of 7 Tips for Effective Meetings

Learn to be a good meeting facilitator and keep meetings on time

1. Maintain control of the agenda
Your job as meeting facilitator is crucial for effective meetings. It’s up to you to direct attention back to the topic when it strays (and it will). It is common for people to stray from the agenda topic. As the meeting facilitator, it is your job to be a traffic cop and get the conversation focused back on the current item of discussion. Be ruthless about it as a good facilitator. Your team will eventually learn to stay on topic.

2. Don’t go beyond the time set for each agenda item

Keep people focused on using time wisely. Appoint a timekeeper and ask them to announce a two-minute or five-minute warning when nearing the time limit for each item on the agenda. Have different people serve as timekeeper at each meeting, which reinforces the importance of timing to individuals. (Only go beyond time limit when everyone agrees. But don't do it too often.)

I once helped the executive team of a healthcare organization to improve their staff meetings. I asked the CEO to quit leading all meetings. He had a tendency to talk way too much. He said he tried that once and it didn’t work out well. Do it again, I insisted. I said it is a great way for your key executives to learn meeting facilitation skills. I recommended the timekeeper become the next meeting facilitator. A couple of months later I asked an executive vice president how the meetings were going. He told me that with a timekeeper and new facilitator at each meeting they were accomplishing about three times as much as they had formerly.

3. Stop side conversations
It’s normal for side conversations to start during meetings. Often people get excited about the topic and start talking to each other while the rest of the group is discussing the agenda topic. My favorite response when this happens is to say: “We have two meetings going on. Let’s have one meeting.” That gets everyone‘s attention back on the person currently speaking.

4. Watch out for repetition of ideas
One good technique is to briefly summarize what has been said. Anyone at the meeting can do this, though it is a key role for the meeting facilitator. This is good to do when people give too many details or repeat what they have already said. While observing meetings for my clients to improve meeting effectiveness I often have heard the same point made by the same person several times in different ways. Restating it briefly gets the meeting back on track.

5. Always start meetings on time
It is a terrible waste of human resources and money if 6-8 people are waiting 10-25 minutes to start a meeting because some have not arrived. Build an on-time culture for meetings. Soon you will notice that people DO arrive on time. 

Share your additional ideas for being a good facilitator in Comments below. Thanks for sharing!

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