Leading TeamsThey say a meeting is a gathering of people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.

Recognise yours? Here’s how to improve their (and your) reputation …

Method in the Meeting

Guidelines for managing the whole meeting process:

The Purpose:

make sure everyone knows the single clear purpose of the meeting beforehand

The Agenda:

  • Ensure everyone has one well before the meeting, so there are no surprises
  • In terms of order, cover apologies first, then minutes from any previous meeting you have had on the same topic, and matters arising from them
  • Allocate discussion time to topics according to their urgency, importance and complexity
  • After each agenda item, summarise the point, and state what the result/action will be, to be completed by when and by whom
  • Try avoiding AOB if possible –
    it can be cluttered with irrelevancies which dissipate the focus of the meeting and bring it to a deflated end

The Action Points:

  • Put names beside all action points; otherwise expect a ‘whodunit meeting’- everyone thinking everyone else has done it
  • Involve participants in setting the actions: this will force them to focus their ideas and to concentrate their minds on the specific action needed as they try to word it succinctly
  • Make sure people outside the meeting are informed of actions/decisions affecting them

The Point of Order:

  • Is a point raised by a participant to question or challenge the conduct of the meeting eg when a participant is perturbed by another’s comment/language/behaviour (the chairperson then generally rules on whether the person/comment/or action is out of order)
  • Can be raised at any time in the meeting, except when the chairperson is actually speaking
  • Should only be raised if you genuinely have a problem with the conduct, rather than the content, of the meeting

The Minutes:

  • Concentrate on conclusions: unless needed for legal purposes, avoid writing down everyone single word
  • Agree the minutes: if you have time, have participants sign them off: this way, they can’t complain about misinterpretation
  • Minute asap: to maintain momentum

Minding your Manners

Essential behaviour etiquette for all meeting participants. Do not:

  • Turn up with info that is out of date or inaccurate they will see through you — you haven’t prepared, and you’re wasting their time
  • Turn up late, full of apologies they will think you don’t have much consideration for others present
  • Turn on the person if you say something personal, don’t’ be surprised when they take it personally; argue with the point they’re making, but keep your comments about the point, not the participant
  • Turn up with new info to distribute in the meeting they will want time to digest any new stats or documents, and if distributed in the meeting, will only waste time; circulate all new info for the meeting prior to the meeting

The Challenge of the Chair

Not an excuse to hold forth and give the others the benefit of your bias, some pointers for the chairperson extraodinaire:

  • Be fair
    Ensure all participants are given the opportunity to contribute: the best meetings leave participants satisfied that they have been heard
  • Use names where possible
    Helps to build meeting rapport, and break down some of the barriers which may exist
  • Explain yourself
    For example, if you have previously promised to let someone speak next, then change your mind, explain why: ‘I know I said I’d come to you next, but I think on reflection it’s best to have X’s view first …’
  • Keep to and call time
    Pull participants back when they wander off the point, interrupt (gently and in a natural pause) a participant who never knows when to stop, inform the meeting of how long they have to discuss the various agenda items
  • Be aware of ulterior motives
    Make it your business to know if there are potential conflicts of interest; this way, you will be able to stop your meeting from being hijacked

Meeting Mischief

…or how to manipulate a meeting to your own ends:

  • Deal with easy matters first: hopefully they’ll be too tired and disinterested by the time you get round to the meaty items
  • Stand up: you’ll instantly gain command of the room
  • Call the meeting: it’s your meeting and you’ll do what you want to
  • Leave important issues to AOB: hopefully, they’ll have gone by then, so you can decide in their absence
  • Provide wordy minutes: they’ll never wade through them to see that decision that went your way
  • Provide late minutes: they’ll have forgotten

So you mean there’s more to meetings than wagging tongues over tea?