Leading a meeting can be nerve-racking. Whether you own the company or are just starting out, you want every meeting to go well. Keeping your meeting on track and accomplishing your meeting goals is possible no matter your experience or career level. You just need the right tips for leading your next meeting.
Set Your Meeting Agenda
What is the goal of your meeting? Clearly define what you hope your meeting will accomplish when you invite others to participate in the meeting and again at the start of the meeting. You must give the purpose of your meeting considerable thought. This will help you determine the length of your meeting, who needs to be involved, and help everyone stay on task.
If you have a whiteboard handy, write your objective on the board at the beginning of your meeting. You can also include it on the first slide of your presentation or at the top of any handouts. Keep your objective at the front of participants’ minds, so everyone can remain focused throughout the meeting.
Give People Time to Prepare
Holding an important meeting on a crucial topic with only one day’s notice may not provide the best results. If you are tackling a complicated process or attempting to solve a unique problem, give your coworkers time to prepare. Send out your meeting agenda and goals in advance. This allows participants to collect their thoughts, gather any relevant information, and come to the meeting with well-formulated ideas.
You can also save a considerable amount of time by having participants prepare before the meeting. There’s no need to spend time brainstorming or rehashing the issues at hand. Instead, everyone will be on the same page and ready to move forward.
Be the Leader
It’s your meeting, so make sure it goes the way you want. If you feel the conversation is veering off-task, it is perfectly acceptable to remind everyone of the meeting goals. There’s no need to interrupt or talk over your coworkers, but you can pause the conversation if it is not relevant to the meeting’s agenda.
Part of leading the meeting means that you stick to the structure and agenda you’ve laid out while remaining somewhat flexible. If an idea seems off-topic but may still be relevant, you can let the conversation wander. On the other hand, be prepared to put ideas that are not relevant to the discussion at hand in a “parking lot” for further discussion later.
Keep the Time in Mind
One of the most important aspects of leading a meeting is being able to read the room. If everyone is frustrated or burnt out, you probably won’t generate great ideas in the next hour and a half. Offer a short break or let everyone brainstorm on their own and come together at another time.
However, if there is significant momentum in the room, don’t feel like you have to abruptly end your meeting. Be respectful of other’s time and excuse them if they have additional commitments. The rest of your team can keep working as long as you are moving forward toward your meeting’s goal.
Send a Recap
Chances are, your coworkers have other meetings to attend throughout the day or week. Even if you had a very productive meeting, you can’t rely on everyone to remember what was discussed or decided. It is important to have someone take notes during the meeting, whether it is you or someone else in the room.
After your meeting, you can send out a brief recap on the progress you made, who has assigned tasks, and when you are following up. If you planned another meeting, this is the perfect time to send out a calendar invite for all relevant parties. You can also provide a list of the topics you put in the parking lot, so people can work on them when appropriate.
Leading a great meeting takes time and practice. The more you put these strategies into action, the more they will become second nature. Setting your agenda and seeing it through will be crucial to having a successful meeting. Read the room and be flexible enough to make changes as you go. Overall, enjoy the feeling of leading a meeting and having a productive time at work.