In the first part of this post, I covered some underlying principles to keep in mind when preparing for a meeting. This second part will pick up where that one left off, covering some suggestions for managing the meeting and moving forward once the meeting is over.
As a quick reminder, before the meeting begins you should determine whether to call the meeting, identify the goals of the meeting, identify the required attendees, select a time and location, and set and distribute an agenda. Then…
- Manage the discussion. When you start the meeting, briefly review the agenda to set expectations, explain your role and the roles of the participants, and lay out any applicable logistics or “rules of engagement” for the meeting. Provide any necessary background information. As the meeting progresses, make sure that it stays on topic and makes progress toward the stated goals. If things begin to veer off course, steer the discussion back to the topic at hand.
- Manage the time. Time management is a key aspect of running a successful meeting. You have a limited amount of time in which to meet your objectives, and your attendees have taken time out of their busy schedules to participate. Use a “parking lot” for discussions which can’t be resolved in the time allotted. The parking lot isn’t a way to get rid of a topic — only to postpone discussion. Make sure to document any parking lot topics and return to them at the conclusion of the meeting.
- Wrap-up the meeting. At the end of the allotted time, wrap-up the discussion. Are there any open topics which weren’t covered? What decisions were made? Are there any action items or to-do’s for the meeting attendees? Set expectations regarding the timeframe for completing those tasks and how you will follow-up on them. And most importantly, thank the attendees for their time and effort.
- Follow through and follow up. Based on the tasks identified, follow through on the work each attendee (and you!) are responsible for. Make sure that those tasks are being completed, and share status with the other attendees so that everyone has visibility into the status.
- Solicit feedback and implement change. In order to improve your own meeting management skills, occasionally solicit feedback from the attendees. Ask them what went well and what could have been better in terms of the management of the meeting (rather than the content or the outcomes). Then take that feedback and determine if and how to change your approach for the next meeting.
Hopefully this overview will give you some ideas for improving your own meeting management. There are a number of great books on the topic, if you’re interested in additional reading. Check out How to Make Meetings Work, The Art of Facilitation, Meeting Excellence, and Great Meetings! Great Results for more ideas. Also, I highly recommend re-reading All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten too — just as a reminder about how to treat others.