team meetingMeetings are one way that companies evaluate the performance of their employees, so if you think the meeting you’re in is a boring waste of time, think again. With some reasonable preparation, it’s an opportunity to separate yourself from the pack and boost your career. For a detailed look on how to improve your meeting managing skills, look into a class. For a brief overview, keep reading.

Choose the Right Meeting Size

Research  has shown that the number of people at your meeting should depend on the content of your meeting. If you’re disseminating information or giving a motivational talk, the number of attendees is unlimited, but if you are making a critical decision for the company, your roster should be small—about six people. Brainstorming and action planning sessions can have up to 20 or 30 people, whereas when trying to gain consensus or alignment about a given program, you should have a smaller group of about 6 to 15 participants. You may feel compelled to be inclusive, but having too many participants can hinder your objectives. If you need to make a decision and an action plan, consider holding two meetings: one with a smaller group of decision makers and a later larger one where you present your decision and solicit ideas from all departments.

Technical Issues

Nothing sucks away the momentum of a meeting like ongoing technical issues. Whenever possible, arrive to your meeting room early to ensure all teleconference equipment or computer hook-ups are functioning properly. If you’re going to be managing the meeting, delegate someone to take notes and ensure you provide the instruments for them to do so.

Make an Agenda and Stick to It

If your team meeting is supposed to be ten minutes long, it should be ten minutes long. Your colleagues are busy people; it’s up to you to control your longwinded sidekick in sales. At the beginning of your meeting, outline your agenda. It should have the topics you’re covering, a brief explanation of each one, and the time allotted to each topic. It should also designate who is going to speaking during each topic if someone else has content to present. Ideally, you want to distribute a copy of the agenda at least two days in advance so your team is prepared to participate. It’s a good idea to send it out with the memo that invites your colleagues to the meeting. Giving out your agenda again at the start of your meeting makes it easier to control the discussion. Ensure that your content fits the specified time. Avoid running over time or ending early.

The Opening Talk

From sales figures to logo sizes, meetings can cover a broad range of topics, so you need to keep your meeting focused on your topic. You do that by starting off with a brief talk that orients your team to today’s discussion. This talk should define the purposes and goals of the meeting. It should clarify who is responsible for what. You need to provide the facts that pertain to the problem/topics you’re discussing. Delineate the factors that are pertinent to the issue. Set the parameters for what you are going to discuss and note the ones you’re not discussing today. That gives you a polite and easy out when your tangent-reeling chatterbox of a subordinate pipes up with his opinion. “Thanks for that Tony, as you recall, we are going to try to stick strictly to discussing the results from Q4 today.” If your meeting is trying to solve a problem, set out the criteria that will make a viable solution. “We want a solution that provides healthy food options while eliminating the stink in the fridge.” You get the drift. (If your meeting is specifically sales oriented, you might be interested in How to Run and Effective Sales Meeting. If you’re pitching to new investors, ensure you anticipate their objections and respond accordingly  End your orientation talk with an introduction to the next speaker or the next item on the agenda.

The Meat of the Meeting

No matter what is being discussed, it’s your job as the meeting manager to make things run smoothly. In that sense, you serve as a moderator to ensure everyone’s ideas get heard. You keep people engaged, and make sure no one is doing a crossword puzzle during the discussion. You help the participants understand why the meeting is important to his or her division, and keep the discussion moving forward. Use this time in the meeting to show your leadership potential (without grandstanding). Garner the participants’ attention or engender goodwill by opening with a relevant Dilbert cartoon or pertinent news story. It’s a good idea to complement one of your colleagues, and to take notes on a visible flip chart so people can see the progress that is being made. (Hajduk, Thomas. (2002) Interpersonal Communication, p. 66.)

Visual Aids

Every document, PowerPoint slide or visual you use in your meeting is an opportunity to sway your colleagues to see things your way. Use your visuals to their full effect, and you’re well on your way to success. When your graph is of “Q4 Profits,” label it with a more substantive title or phrase such as, “Q4 Profits show 15% increase due to new advertising initiatives.” Take every opportunity to convey your message.

The Conclusion

As you end your meeting, it’s important to summarize the discussion and decisions taken by the group. Recap what the action plan is for each division or participant. Thank your colleagues for their contributions and ask for their feedback on how the meeting went.

Post Meeting

Phew! You finished managing your first meeting, and you can relax now right? Wrong! Now it’s time to produce the minutes of the meeting (if you haven’t designated that task to someone else.) The minutes should contain the decision or outcome of the meeting and few notes as to how the group arrived at consensus. It should clarify future responsibilities with the appropriate deadlines or implementation dates. It should reiterate who is responsible for what.

As we said at the start, a meeting is a chance for you to show your leadership skills at the company. Lead your team meeting properly, and  your colleagues will thank you for not wasting their time while the higher-ups take notice of your managerial abilities. Take advantage of your opportunity to shine. If you want another leg up in the business world, consider some additional coursework in Business Writing, Market Strategy, or Business Analytics. At the end of the day, even your curmudgeonly supervisor can’t take away the fact that your professional success is in your hands. Now go show them who’s boss.

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