By Jean Kelley
Any meeting you conduct at work is a reflection of you. What kind of image are you portraying? Professional, on-target and efficient? Or unprepared, unproductive and ineffective?
Unfortunately, few people receive formal training on how to conduct a great meeting, and this lack of training is apparent in conference rooms across the country. Between meetings that ramble on with no agenda and no action steps, to participants feeling bored and questioning why the meeting is even taking place, its no wonder so many people dread going to meetings.
To conduct a meeting that boosts your credibility and helps you achieve your self-storage companys goals, keep these 10 meeting tips in mind.
1. Do You Need a Meeting?
Before sending the meeting invites, define why youre having the meeting. Is it really necessary? Is there another way to accomplish the result? If you have a small department or group of attendees, perhaps a stand up meeting will suffice. In this case, you simply get everyone to gather in the hall, say what they need to know, and then everyone disbands within five minutes. Its a quick, painless and highly effective way to get a message out.
2. Set Expectations Prior to the Meeting
If a meeting is indeed necessary, create the agenda and send it out prior to the meeting so your staff is clear on whats going to be covered. If multiple topics are on the agenda, include a time allotment for each item. Also, list a meeting adjournment timeand stick with it. The more detailed you are, the more professional you look.
3. Facilitate Well During the Meeting
The facilitators job is to keep the meeting running smoothly, make sure everyone gets a say, and lead people through areas of conflict. Realize that no meeting runs itself. You need to lead people through each segment of the agenda and work for a resolution to each area of discussion.
4. Beware of Parkinsons Law
As you facilitate, keep Parkinsons Law in mind: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. The same is true for meetings. If youve set an hour for the meeting, chances are it will drag on to fill that time slot. To keep this from happening, announce at the onset, If we get through this agenda before the adjournment time, we all get to leave early. Make that the goal, not the posted adjournment time.
5. Allow Conflict
If the goal of your meeting is to solve a problem, then conflict is inevitable. Welcome it. A good facilitator will recognize when emotions get too high and will step in to keep the meeting on track. But dont strive to avoid conflict. Nothing gets solved without first having a conflict of ideas.
6. Assign Action Steps
In a perfect world, people would 100 percent self-manage. We dont live in a perfect world. Thats why the meeting leader needs to wrap up the meeting by summarizing the key points and then assign the action steps. Decide whos going to do what and by when. Also, determine how everyone will follow up on the action steps. Whos holding people accountable for doing what needs to get done? The more follow-up and accountability you have, the more likely you are to accomplish the stated goals.
7. Delegate the Meeting Responsibility
Just because youre a the self-storage owner or supervisor doesnt mean you have to lead every meeting. Delegate some meetings to others so they can gain experience in this critical skill. If you dont feel comfortable delegating the entire meeting, delegate a part of it thats focused on a specific topic. Give everyone a turn to develop their meeting prowess.
8. Know When to Lead and When to Participate
When you do delegate a meeting or attend someone elses meeting, resist the urge to take over. Of course you can be an active participant and state your opinions, but let the other person do his job and have the spotlight as the leader. He may not run the meeting exactly like you would, but its his meeting. Let his own leadership style shine.
9. Always Let People Out Early
Remember when you were a kid and the teacher let you out of class a minute or two early? Chances are you liked that teacher and didnt mind going back to his class.
Adults are the same way. The minute you start going over the stated adjournment time, people disengage and tune out. Instead, let them out a few minutes early. If youve followed all the other points mentioned thus far, an early adjournment should be possible. If your meeting topic still has loose ends, address those key items with the needed parties privately. Keeping everyone in the meeting to address final points that dont pertain to the group as a whole leaves people frustrated and borednot the kind of last impression you want.
10. Have Fun!
Meetings have a reputation for being boring and uninspiring, so give people a chance to leave with something other than the agenda. For example, if the meeting takes place around a holiday, put out some candies or small decorations. If the meeting topic is dull, hand out small hand clappers (hand-shaped noise makers). Tell everyone, If I say something good, pick this up and make some noise. Do what you can to make a dull meeting memorable and fun.
Make Your Meetings Work
Meetings dont have to be something people dread. When you implement these 10 tips for your future meetings, youll gain a reputation for being an effective meeting facilitator. And rather than being viewed as time wasters, your meetings will actually get things done.
Jean Kelley, author and entrepreneur, is the managing director of Jean Kelley Leadership Alliance, whose faculty and trainers have helped more than 750,000 leaders and high potentials up their game at work in the United States and in Canada. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.jeankelley.com.