Of course, when it gets right down to it, a productive discussion depends on what happens once everyone’s gathered together, whether they’re sitting around a table or connecting through the Web or a mobile device. If you’re the meeting’s leader, it’s up to you to set the tone and keep the conversation moving in the right direction and make sure everyone is engaged in the conversation.
Effective meeting means not only informing people in a timely and professional manner, but giving them a certain enthusiasm about the follow up tasks they’re taking on. It is a turning point of sorts: Participants leave with information they can use and a clear sense of what comes next.
For this to happen, everyone must be fully engaged in the discussion, participating without the distraction of side conversations, emails or technical glitches that muddy the waters for those who attend virtually.
Indeed, the leader of the meeting must pay special attention to remote participants to make sure they’re not talked over by people in the room, and they don’t use their distance as an excuse to stay quiet.
Below we have identified several tactics to help you achieve a more effective meeting:
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: Write up a list of what’s to discuss, how much time each topic should need, and stick to the plan. When you do this, your meeting will have a steady pace and won’t feel aimless. Create your agenda, share it with participants ahead of time and then track each item in real time once the meeting convenes.
When one person speaks the entire time, you’re not holding a meeting—you’re staging a lecture. So, proactively engage everyone by calling on people by name and not allowing any one person to dominate.
Pay special attention to those who’ve connected to the meeting remotely by ensuring the sound and video quality is fine to easily follow what’s being said. Also, designate a time towards the end of the meeting where people can ask questions and share any pertinent thoughts that might not have been covered on the agenda.
All meetings don’t have to be alike. For instance, if your company culture emphasizes letting each person around the table speak in turn, switch it up once in a while and have people share their thoughts in a random order.
Have remote participants mix in their comments with those who are physically present – too often, we wait till the end to ask for their thoughts and opinions.
When you can, start meetings on a positive note, like letting the team know when someone has landed a new client or reached a project milestone. If meetings are always meant to go one way, people become accustomed to the routine. Keep them on their toes.
Although you want to keep things professional, meetings don’t have to be somber occasions. As you wait to begin, lighten the tension – talk about Game of Thrones or plans for the weekend. As long as it doesn’t become distracting, bringing in food like bagels or pizza can demonstrate that your people taking time out of their day. And keep the tone light if you can.
Recognizing the human aspect of meetings is the key to having focused and determined attendees in the room – and that’s what makes meeting a success.
Authored by: Frédéric Gillant, Vice-President and Managing Director, Asia-Pacific of ShoreTel