How to Run A Meeting

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For many, being called to a meeting is not a welcome occurrence. In many workplaces, workers spend copious amounts of time in meetings that all-too-often effectively accomplish nothing. Instead of allowing the meeting you run to blend in with the rest of the worthless -- and perhaps even painful -- meetings that attendees may have previously experienced, set yours apart by effectively planning for, and running, your meeting.

  • Set goals. All meetings should have a purpose. Before your meeting, decide what you want to accomplish at this sit down. When composing your goal, write a concise and easily understandable statement such as, “To select an advertising campaign for fourth quarter.”

  • Prepare an agenda. List all of the topics that you want to discuss in the meeting in the order in which you want to discuss them. Add further clarity to your agenda by placing an estimated amount of time next to each item to discuss, helping you ensure that you haven’t included too many items.

  • Share your goal and agenda in advance of the meeting via email. By sharing both the purpose of the meeting and the agenda with those who will attend in advance of their arrival, you allow them to mentally prepare for the meeting as well as give them the opportunity to come prepared with paperwork or other materials germane to the planned topic.

  • Establish roles. Select an individual to serve as the secretary and ask this person to take notes as the meeting progresses. Assign another meeting attendee to act as time keeper. This individual will keep an eye on the clock and help ensure that you follow your planned time allotment for each agenda item. Declare yourself the meeting moderator and take on the task of moving through the items on the agenda in a timely and effective fashion.

  • Retake control of the meeting if it slips out of your grasp. Particularly if an attendee at your meeting has a tendency to lead meetings astray, it is vital that you exercise your power as the meeting leader and keep the session on course. To do this effectively, politely remind the individual trying to hijack the meeting of the reason for the meeting and ask him to save his side concerns for discussion at a later time.

  • Assign tasks. As you move through your discussion and decide on things that need doing, assign these tasks on the spot. Also set a due date for the completion of each task, improving the chances that the task actually gets done. Ask the individual taking meeting minutes to write down these task assignments.

  • Conclude the meeting on time. If you allow the meeting to go past its scheduled end point, you will likely find that many of the attendees mentally check out of the sit down. If you reach the end of your allotted time and you have items yet to discuss, table them to a later date out of respect for those who gave their time to attend the meeting.

  • Share minutes post meeting. Email the meeting minutes along with a thank you to the attendees for their cooperation and dedication with 24 hours of the meeting’s end. If you assigned many tasks during the meeting, include a polite reminder to the attendees to follow through with the assigned items.

Tips & Warnings

  • Roberts Rules of Order were written in 1876 by Henry Martyn Robert, A British Army engineer, after he had a disastrous experience trying to chair a church meeting. He studied various parliamentary forms of ordering meetings and came up with a little book to cover almost any question you might have about reports, motions,amendments--almost anything that might come up. Roberts Rules are the standard by which government, corporations and chartered organizations conduct meetings.
  • "Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised" can be found in your public library, your bookstore in paperback or on the web. There are also a number of quick-reference charts available.
  • You don't take minutes at your meetings? How do you know whether you're doing the same thing over and over? The short answer is that you don't. Minutes are used to keep track of decisions as well as any issues that are "laid over" or assignments given to members. You don't need to record everybody's opinion on an issue, just actions taken.
  • Whether you've been elected to the position or not, the other people at the table are relying on you to keep the meeting focused and as short as possible. Don't disappoint them.
  • Be sure that the items on your agenda are the only things discussed and dealt with at a meeting. Too often, policy boards waste time doing committee work and committees waste time brainstorming the entire organization's problems. Whatever your group, prepare a relevant agenda and stick to it!

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