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Meeting Leading Suggestions

Clint Maun, CSP

The primary reason for conducting meetings should be to improve productivity and increase teamwork in an organization. A major question then should be, "Is there a better way of doing things or accomplishing these tasks?"

Here are our suggestions for achieving the greatest results from meetings:

  1. Have a definite reason (outcome) for every meeting.
  2. Develop and distribute agendas in advance of the meeting.
  3. Question every item on the agenda regarding its appropriateness for group deliberation.
  4. Structure the agenda for productivity:
    1. Format
      1. information
      2. action
      3. discussion
      4. review/follow-up
      5. reports
    2. Time allowed - each item should have a specific time allotted and STICK TO IT!
    3. Expected results
    4. Responsibility
  5. Be sure participants know the purpose of the meeting in time to prepare.
  6. Schedule meetings as the last thing before the end of the shift or before lunch. This way they are sure to end on time.
  7. Start on time regardless of late arrivals.
  8. Do not reward tardiness. Indicate in the record of the meeting those arriving late. Reinforce positive performance of those punctual.
  9. Experiment with stand up meetings. Meetings without chairs force expediency.
  10. Experiment with regular meetings to determine necessity. Skip one or cut its time in half. If things function normally without it, try reducing their frequency.
  11. Keep group size small to foster effective communication.
    1. Who NEEDS to be there?
    2. Who NEEDS NOT to be there?
  12. Train members in effective group skills.
    1. Active listening
    2. Summarizing
    3. Paraphrasing
    4. Accountability
    5. Follow-up on agenda item
  13. Eliminate or control interruptions.
    1. Reduce or limit coffee breaks
    2. If visitors are allowed, require appropriate decorum
    3. Hold all phone calls - DEFINE WHAT AN EMERGENCY IS!
    4. Don't spend time bringing late arrivals "up to speed". This is their penalty for being late
    5. If a member must leave early, have them indicate to the chair in advance and quietly leave without excusing themselves to every member
    6. Keep to the agenda, don't allow members to "get off the subject"
  14. Control time wasters such as:
    1. Reading out loud during meetings what is written
    2. Passing out papers
    3. Not announcing time limits
    4. Not making the purpose clear
    5. Allowing the wrong people to attend
    6. Lack of follow-up on previous decisions
    7. Not keeping minutes
    8. Not assigning accountability
    9. Same old "tired" formats
    10. Excessive "one way" communication
    11. No evaluation of meeting productivity
    12. Same person always in charge
    13. Inadequate physical facilities
    14. Unplanned seating arrangements
    15. Take turn speeches
    16. Wrong time allocations for most important items
    17. Prior planning which does not allow adequate preparation
    18. "Hidden agendas" of various group members
    19. Ego needs of leaders calling for regular, routine and monotonous meetings
    20. Wandering from agenda by "bird walking" on side issues
  15. Always appoint a recorder to take down discussion points and discussion needs.
  16. Deal appropriately with "problem members".
    1. Overly talkative, show-off, eager beaver or just plain gabby:
      Cut across his/her talk with a summarizing statement and direct a question to someone else.
    2. Highly argumentative, combative personality, professional heckler or upset by emotional problem:
      Try to find merit in one of his/her points and get agreement on it; then, move on to get his/her cooperation for future meetings.
    3. Quick-helpful, has right answers but keeps others out:
      Cut across him/her tactfully by questioning others. Suggest, "let's get several opinions", use him/her to summarize. Be sure he/she understands that you appreciate his/her help.
    4. Rambler, talks about everything except subject or gets lost:
      When he/she stops for a breath, thank him/her, rephrase one of his/her statements and move on. Ask direct questions of others. Indicate in a friendly manner that he/she is off the topic.
    5. Side conversationalist, talk may be related but is distracting:
      Pause and let others listen, it may be pertinent. Call him/her by name, then draw him/her into the discussion by asking for his/her opinion. Ask by direct question if he/she has something to add to the general discussion.
    6. Poor voice or choice of words, voice not clear, can’t find right words, ideas may be good but can't convey them;
      Repeat the ideas in your own words, but say "let me repeat that," rather than "What you mean is..". Protect him/her from ridicule.
    7. Obstinate, won't budge, is prejudiced or may simply not see the point:
      Try to get others to help him/her see the point. If time is short, tell him/her frankly that it is necessary to get on with the meeting.
    8. Griper, pet peever, professional griper, BMG or may have legitimate complaint:
      Tell him/her the problem is how best to operate under the present system. Direct attention to topic of discussion. Indicate pressure of time. MAKE THEM OFFER A SOLUTION!
    9. Wrong subject or off the beam:
      Direct attention to topic of discussion. You might say "something I said may have thrown you off the subject, but the question we are considering now is..".
    10. Definitely wrong, completely off the beam:
      Say, "that's one way of looking at it," and go on. Ask additional questions such as "Would we be able to reconcile that with...?" but don't embarrass him/her.
    11. Personality clash, a clash between two or more members:
      Emphasize points of agreement as much as possible. Cut across with direct question of topic. Bring a sound member into the discussion.
    12. Superior attitude, not disposed to help, attitude is "I had to find out the hard way, you do the same":
      Sell him/her on the fact that the meeting is a cooperative effort. Flatter him/her by telling him/her how much others could benefit from his/her experience. Don’t overdo it or the rest of the group will resent it.
    13. Won't talk, bored, indifferent, hesitant, insecure, afraid:
      Try to determine what is motivating him/her then find his/her interest. Call on him/her for experience or opinion. Use direct provocative questions. Ask for his/her agreement. Compliment the sensitive person the first time he/she talks, be sincere.