Running a Good Meeting.

By Shari Storm

I’ve been a mentor for Seattle University’s graduate program for several years. Yesterday, I invited Mary Kay Beeby, Owner of MK Consulting, to talk to my students. I’ve always admired Mary Kay. She was an engineer at Boeing in a decade that saw few women in such a role. She’s been a smart businesswoman her whole career.

One piece of advice she gave my students was to participate in any project that includes senior personnel and if at all possible, take a lead role. She told the story of how she was promoted at Boeing when a department manager saw how well she ran the Special Olympics Summer Games.

I’ve long held the theory that the ability to facilitate a good meeting can make or break your career.

A person who can run a good meeting demonstrates that they are talented at executing on a plan. A poorly run meeting is often an annoyance for the attendees and everyone leaves feeling less confident about the meeting organizer.

I’ve put together a few tips on running a successful meeting. I hope you find them useful.

How to Facilitate a Highly Productive Meeting

The focal point of any meeting is the first sentence you utter:

“I’ve brought you here today because…….”

Everything leading up to and after that sentence is what will make or break a good meeting.

When scheduling a meeting, make sure you have a concise idea of what you want to accomplish. There are several reasons for having a meeting:

  1. to distribute information
  2. to gather information
  3. to brainstorm ideas
  4. to assign action steps that move a project forward
  5. Before you schedule a meeting, think through these things:

  1. who needs to be there and why?
  2. how long should it take and why?
  3. what are you going to accomplish at the meeting?
  4. what do you want people to come to the meeting with?

Make sure the attendees understand all four of these questions.

At the beginning of the meeting, spell out what you want to accomplish.

Guide the discussion with a firm and gentle hand. A few phrases should have in your arsenal:

  • When people get off topic – “That is a good point, but I want to refocus to the topic at hand”.
  • If someone starts talking for too long, “Shari, I’m going to stop you there and let someone else give their point of view”, (this often works best with a friendly hand motion toward the person speaking).
  • If the conversation gets heated, “this doesn’t sound like this an issue we are going to solve in our 30 minute meeting. I’ll take everyone’s view point back for discussion”

Always wrap up the meeting with an overview of what was decided, what action steps were assigned and a recap of deadlines.

Other helpful tips –

  1. In regularly scheduled meetings, have someone taking notes via the computer, if possible. Email the notes to the people in attendance right after the meeting. This will help keep a running log for what you discussed and what you agreed upon.
  2. Assume meetings take 30 minutes. If you are going to ask for longer, make sure you communicate why.
  3. Use outlook to request meetings with people.
  4. Don’t be afraid of silence and don’t be afraid to prompt people to speak.
  5. Remember that introverts and extroverts behave differently in group settings. Don’t be surprised if introverts do not speak up at a meeting, but speak to you later about an issue. Sometimes it takes others longer to verbally articulate an idea.
  6. If you are going to pass out something that is long or complicated, make sure you give people time to read it before the meeting.

Shari Storm is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Verity Federal Credit Union and is the author of the book ‘Motherhood is the New MBA”, available here.

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2 thoughts on “Running a Good Meeting.

  1. Shari,

    These are excellent points about improving meetings. I would also add something about encouraging meeting participants to silence their cell phones or put them away. It has become commonplace now for people to constantly be checking their phone for texts or e-mails DURING a meeting. This is extremely distracting to all involved. A highly engaged meeting means putting aside the cell phone. Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

    Mark

  2. @Mark – Excellent addition to the list. I am lucky enough to work in a company that does not have that corporate culture (for the most part). When someone checks their messages while you are talking, it is so demoralizing.

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