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Conducting a Successful Meeting

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Once the planning has been concluded, it is time to hold the meeting. Adhering to several simple rules can dramatically increase the likelihood that your meeting will be a productive one.

If you are facilitating the meeting, arrive early and be prepared.

No exceptions to this rule are allowed. A late facilitator dampens the mood and gets the meeting off on the wrong foot because it makes it impossible for the meeting to start on time. Indeed, provided the facilitator is present, the meeting should begin at the time scheduled, even if other scheduled participants have not yet arrived. Waiting for latecomers rewards them for their behaviour and implies that you value their time more than you value the time of those who showed up on time. If one of the latecomers is essential to the first agenda item, be flexible and move on to a later agenda item to keep things moving.

Facilitators interested in making certain that the meeting proceeds effectively should set the appropriate tone from the outset.

Chit-chat should be kept to a minimum, especially at the start of the meeting. Do not be a dictator—social interaction is an important part of building a cohesive team—but do not let valuable meeting time be wasted either. "Nothing saps the spirit like watching, powerless, as a meeting wanders into oblivion," observed Phaedra Hise in Inc.

Be sure to stick to the timed meeting agenda that was developed at the planning stage.

This builds consensus for tabling discussions that are going nowhere. It also makes it easier to agree to send problems back to committees, and it keeps one long-winded group member from dominating the meeting. Using a phrase such as "We would like to hear what you have to say, but in order for the group to be out on time we have to move on," is a very successful tactic.

If some members of the group are not participating, actively seek out their opinion.

Groups tend to be dominated by the most outgoing or opinionated members, but the quiet members often have great ideas of their own. Do not let one person or group dominate the floor.

Stay focused on the purpose of the meeting.

If the group that is meeting is a large board that is primarily responsible for delegating tasks to smaller committees, make sure the larger group does not make the mistake of doing the work for the smaller groups instead of passing it on.

Schedule meetings for times that are likely to encourage concentrate on agenda items.

For example, facilitators may want to consider holding short meetings before lunch and quitting time, when staff are less likely to dawdle over non-work related subjects. Conversely, many analysts believe that meetings that are held immediately after lunch, when people are often at their least energetic, are apt to be less effective.

Stand-up meetings are often touted as a great way to ensure that meeting participants stay focused.

Another way to stay focused is to use what Hawkins termed the "parking lot" strategy. During the course of one discussion, it is not unusual for important ideas or concerns to arise that are not related to the topic at hand. When that happens, the facilitator can call "time out," identify the issue, and place it in a so-called "parking lot" so that it can be addressed at a later time. The group can then get back to the main focus of the meeting without losing topics or ideas that may be of importance to the firm.

Try to establish a consensus on business decisions that are arrived at in meetings.

"Building consensus does not mean caving in to conform with what the boss wants," said Hawkins. "It does mean examining the plus and minus aspects of possible alternatives, and picking the one(s) that best meet the defined goals. The normal way of deciding—by voting—inevitably produces a win-lose situation. Those who are in the minority are liable to undermine the decision. Even if a voting process is used to pick the winners, a consensus process is recommended to isolate the concerns and address them. When this is done, the solution is refined to the point where everyone in the group can live with the recommendation and support it. A group that builds consensus in a constructive atmosphere is most likely a highly effective team."

Ensure that decisions that are made in meetings are adequately disseminated

Especially to staff members who are personally impacted by the decision. Make sure that company resources are appropriately redistributed to enable execution of decisions

The above is an exercpt from

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