Observe How Other People Run Meetings. You Could Learn A Thing Or Two.

How many times have you attended a meeting only to leave feeling that nothing got accomplished? Believe it or not, managing a meeting is more art than a science, and not everyone has meeting management skills. Consider attending meetings not only as a part of doing business, but also as a learning opportunity.

When I attend a meeting, there are two things that I focus on. The first is whether the meeting has served its purpose or is a waste of time. Depending on the meeting, I try to contribute to the best of my abilities. The second is observing if the meeting is going well or not.

For example, in a meeting earlier this week, I was in attendance, and five minutes in, I still had no idea which direction it was heading. I had to ask what the goal of the meeting was. Later, the meeting chair temporarily lost control of the meeting because there were two simultaneous side conversations. Instead of getting everyone to focus on the topic at hand, he was waiting for those conversations to end. Noticing the side conversations weren’t going to end anytime soon, I spoke up to get everyone back on topic. The meeting lacked structure and I left feeling not much was accomplished.

Looking back at the example above, I think the meeting chair would’ve been more successful if he:

  • Used an agenda or communicated the objective of the meeting.
  • Was more vocal in stopping the side conversations to keep the meeting on track.
  • Provide a quick summary of action items and discuss next steps towards the end of the meeting.
  •  Sent out meeting minutes.

The next time you attend a meeting, observe and reflect on its outcome. If the meeting was horrible, what would you have done differently to avoid those pitfalls? If the meeting was successful, what stood out and can any positive elements be incorporated into your meeting management style?

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