Conducting Effective Meetings : Basic Managerial Skills; V4 Issue 2

Meetings often are unending, boring and unproductive. Yet they are an inevitable part of getting things done at work. And if properly planned and conducted, meetings can generate positive energy and new ideas, encourage exchange of vital communication, ensure decisions and consensus are reached, get work done efficiently, leave participants with a sense of accomplishment and enhance your organization’s overall success. So as a manager knowing how to conduct meetings effectively and efficiently is an important skill. To help you conduct successful meetings, listed below are some key strategies that you can follow.

Tips for Conducting Effective Meeting

   Take care before the meeting: Hold a meeting only if it is absolutely necessary ie., if e-mail, telephone, or a one-to-one communication won’t do. Choose participants appropriately ie., people whose job responsibilities will be impacted most by the topic of discussion, who can provide valuable input and who can take decisions. Define the meeting purpose, develop an agenda accordingly and circulate it so that participants can come prepared. Choose appropriate place, time and time limit. Participants will be more likely to attend meetings if you make them as productive, predictable and short as possible. Allot more time for priority items for the initial period. Plan time for socialising separately during lunch, tea etc.

   Start and end the meeting on time: At the end of the meeting if important issues still need to be reviewed offer participants the option of staying or rescheduling at another time.

   Keep discussion focussed: Stating the purpose of the meeting at the beginning and sticking to the agenda will help ensure that the meeting doesn't stray into a discussion about irrelevant issues. At the same time do not stifle creativity or free expression of thoughts. Use tact to control disruptions and to end discussions when they’re going nowhere or become personal. If topics come up that require significant time for debate, consider whether they can be addressed at another meeting. Your goal is to achieve the objectives you've identified for this particular discussion.

   Encourage candid and intense discussions: For each discussion item ensure all debatable points are debated and  closed. If no robust debate took place then it means people did not state their misgivings and were not honest with their opinions. When people accept an action item after discussing how they feel about it they are most likely to be committed to it and are likely to succeed in getting it done.

   Create an informal environment: In effective meetings people are fully involved in the process. They are able to engage and relate to one another personally and hence are not afraid of being frank with each other. Informality is critical to candour. Allowing some unstructured socialising time before the meeting is one way to help people engage with each other more informally. Figure out appropriate ways to put participants at ease. Welcome the participants, introduce the participants to each other if they are new to each other, allow brief time for exchange of pleasantries, induce humour through sharing of funny stories or anecdotes, include fun energisers etc

   Ensure effective participation of all participants: Some people tend to dominate meetings. But for a meeting to be effective, it’s important to not let one person dominate. Solicit inputs regularly from those who may not otherwise express their views during meetings. Try saying “When I was talking to Asha about this yesterday, she mentioned a possible solution to this issue. Asha, you can explain it to the group better than I can.” Listen attentively and show appreciation for all participant inputs.

   Conclude with actionable points: This is a must. Do not leave any issue open. All action items should include the name of the owner and agreed upon time frames for completion.

   Take care after the meeting: Thank the participants for coming and take their feedback on the meeting process on what can be done better next time. Circulate minutes of the meeting to all participants. Follow up on the agreed upon action points to ensure timely completion.