Tips on conducting effective meetings
MEETINGS can be of great benefit when conducted correctly and effectively. They afford us great opportunities for sharing ideas and thoughts while at the same time they are essential for the management of group and team activity.
Without adequate preparation and forethought, meetings can and will fail. Meeting cannot be conducted as a blind, thumb-suck exercise – they need to be thought through and prepared for.
Ask for ideas and items to be included on the agenda so that you can schedule discussions and allocate a specific time to the meeting. Prepare the agenda and circulate it before the meeting so that the delegates have time to prepare.
Circulate the agenda with some brief notes that outline the goal and proposed structure of the meeting and share it with the participants.
The success of the meeting depends largely on the skills displayed by the meeting’s chairperson.
To ensure that the meeting succeeds the chairperson should:
- Prepare and circulate the agenda;
- Start all discussions and encourage active participation;
- Ensure the meeting and discussions flow at an acceptable pace;
- Summarise the discussion and make note of any recommendations at the end of each agenda section;
- Ensure that all participants receive minutes promptly.
Chairing the meeting
Make sure that all participants are encouraged to contribute.
The ability and strength of the chairperson are vital. He or she should be able to lead the delegates and must be capable of making decisions based on discussions.
Try to keep the number of delegates to a maximum of 12 or fewer if possible.
Make sure that the people with the necessary information and/or vital decision makers are invited. It is important to ensure that every person attending and every minute spent in the meeting add value.
If you are the chairperson, make sure that every participant is given a fair opportunity to be heard by guiding the meeting so that there is a free flow of discussion and debate with no individual dominating and no extensive discussions between individuals.
Depending on the time set aside, you may have to stop a discussion and quickly summarise the points made. Move on to the next item on the agenda. This will be at the discretion of the chairperson who should make this decision based on the importance of the topic being discussed and the extent of the input.
When an agenda item is resolved and action is agreed upon, make it clear who will be responsible for it.
To bypass confusion and misunderstandings, summarise the action to be taken and include this in the meeting’s minutes.
In all instances, it is important to start and finish on time. Meetings can be a means of wasting people’s time if not conducted properly and within specific timeframes.
Minutes should record decisions taken and the actions agreed to. They provide a brief record of the meeting for review and record purposes.
In some cases depending on the nature of a meeting and the seriousness of the topics under discussion, more detailed minutes may be recorded. That would be the case in a disciplinary hearing meeting or a meeting to do with staff performance.
Where this is not the case as in committee meetings, minutes should record only important information and a simple list of decisions made and actions to be taken.
Keep minutes as simple as possible.
Minutes should, where possible, be circulated to all concerned within the shortest possible time, not longer than two days after the meeting.
Conflict will occur in meetings and must be managed appropriately. Conflict is not a bad thing and can add value to the meeting.
By the same token, conflict and tension can impact negatively on the meeting if prolonged.
In any conflict situation you have the actual cause of the conflict and you have the people’s feelings about the problem.
Never ignore or underestimate people’s feelings about a matter. Feelings are valid, legitimate and important. Usually, you will have to deal with the feelings before you can deal with the problem.
The problem could relate to a decision made or may relate to the conduct of one attendee. So whenever you find yourself dealing with conflict, remember that you as well as others have feelings about the conflict. Deal with those feelings before you attempt to solve the problem.
When you deal with the problem, isolate it so that others agree on the nature of the problem that is causing the conflict. You will need to be authoritative in your approach.
Once you have isolated the problem, consider all the possible solutions.
All parties may by then have a better understanding and a satisfactory solution may be clear to all.
However, you may also have uncovered real differences. That is where a “win-win” approach will be called for to find a solution that satisfies everyone.
There are three guiding principles here: be calm, be patient and have respect