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10 ways to prevent your meeting from going off the rails.

What’s your favorite thing in the world to do? Chances are it’s not sitting in meetings. In fact, most people find meetings disruptive and frustrating, especially if attending one means forfeiting the accomplishment of a task. But meetings are important. Without them your staff wouldn’t even know which tasks to accomplish, so how do you make sure everyone attends enthusiastically and willingly?

  1. Schedule in advance. Surprises make it hard for people to plan their day. If you set up your meetings a couple of days ahead everyone will have time to prepare and plan their activities around it.
  2. Double-check attendance. The most effective meetings happen when everyone who needs to be there is present. Request RSVPs and be willing to reschedule if key decision-makers are unable to attend.
  3. Send the agenda. Preparing an agenda of points to be discussed during the meeting is great, but why not distribute it to the attendees in advance? If you’re really on the ball you can send it along with the meeting invitation so everyone knows what to expect.
  4. Make (and enforce) rules. Depending on the type of meeting you’re holding, you might want to set some ground rules to ensure everything goes smoothly. For instance, some organizations have a “no electronics” policy to prevent people from getting distracted. Ideally these rules should be included in the written meeting agenda and reiterated verbally when the meeting begins.
  5. Respect everyone’s time. Please, please, please always start and finish on time! Not only do your employees have other things to get back to, but their ability to pay attention also begins to decline the longer the meeting drags on.
  6. Encourage questions. Instead of talking at people, talk with them. Meetings are an opportunity to gather valuable thoughts and shouldn’t be squandered delivering information that could have been communicated in an email. An easy way to stimulate discussion is to ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” or “What are your thoughts?”
  7. Nip tangents in the bud. There’s a chatterbox in every bunch, and left uncontrolled the unfocused discussion can completely derail a meeting. Try not to tolerate too much speaking out of turn or wandering conversation, otherwise you will almost certainly violate tip #5.
  8. Keep detailed notes. While it’s a fantastic idea to have a designated note-taker, you should also consider getting attendees to keep track of the points that are most relevant to them. Not only will taking notes prompt them to pay attention, but it will also help them remember what was asked of them during the meeting.
  9. Focus on action. All meetings should center around at least one specific, action-oriented goal. For example, if it’s a brainstorming session you might decide the goal is to come up with 20 feasible ideas. If you’re discussing catering, your goals could be finalizing the budget and deciding which menu items to order. Focusing on action-oriented goals gives the meeting tangible purpose and ensures productive results.
  10. Follow up. Once the meeting is over have the designated note-taker send everyone a summary of the meeting, with key points and action items highlighted. Accountability is essential, so include who is responsible for what in the summary and be sure to follow up with them later to see how they’re doing.

More tips for managers

Running a successful meeting is only one part of being an effective manager. For more management tips and advice, sign into your LifeSpeak account or click here for guest access.