Let's assume you already do all the obvious things that meeting chairs are expected to do. You've circulated a clear agenda. Everyone knows the purpose of the meeting.
Now let's focus on the human side of leading a productive meeting.
My suggestions come with a cautionary note. It would be easy to say, 'I already do that!' Certainly recognise the things you do well, but as you go through the list, see if you could make more of those strengths. Can you do these things more often or more consistently? Are there any here that you could use in every meeting?
My pick of the key ideas for meeting leaders
- Build rapport with people - connect with them individually before the meeting starts. If it's appropriate, ask about family or work, then listen.
- Have clear start and finish times and expect people to be on time.
- Adopt a facilitative style, rather than being overly directive. Your participants are far more likely to contribute and feel committed to the decisions.
- Enhance participation by distributing information in advance. Expect that everyone has read it and is ready to contribute.
- Model and encourage active listening, including summarising what people have said. When participants feel heard and valued you greatly reduce the likelihood of conflict.
- Assign various roles so everyone actively contributes.
- Respectfully interrupt big talkers.
- Encourage open questions. They make people feel safer to share their ideas and feelings and develops a culture of open-minded enquiring.
- Prioritise agenda items and allocate each a set time. You will establish clear focus and you can use it to maintain momentum.
- Assign and divide action items amongst participants with follow up dates.
- Make decisions by consensus to maintain an inclusive atmosphere. Avoid majority voting.
- Ask everyone to help develop a charter or set of guidelines about how you want your meetings to be run. It's harder to break the rules of meetings if you've had a hand in developing them.
Review – and not just the decisions
Finally and very importantly, review how well the meeting went. It's time well spent. Did everyone get a chance to say what they really needed to say? Was the meeting too long, or too short?
By evaluating the way you have worked together, you build a more relaxed, trusting and collaborative culture. Your next meeting should be even more productive.