1.Use an agenda
The agenda is a list of the topics that need to be discussed. It provides structure which effects time management. It also gives the chairperson permission to say ‘I’m sorry to interrupt but we’re going to discuss that later’. This prevents people from going off topic (and wasting time).
2. Appoint a chairperson
It is the chairperson’s responsibility to present the agenda, give everyone a chance to share their views, and to keep to the schedule. This person needs to have superb communication and interpersonal skills.
Firstly, dominant members of a team can be held in check which makes space for less experienced or introverted speakers to have their say. Quiet people are often overlooked, but their observations lead to good ideas! Secondly, if you want support from the team, their involvement in the decision-making process is crucial.
Ask for contributions
Thank you for your contribution. Who would like to speak next?
John, would you like to add anything?
Now is your opportunity to add anything.
Would anyone like to respond to John’s point?
3. Be professional
In order to run a smooth meeting, everyone should speak directly to the chairperson, not to each other. It helps calm emotions and keep the mood businesslike. For example, if you disagree with a colleague, it is easier to make your point professionally if you address the whole room, rather than face to face. Also, the chairperson can clarify what the speaker is saying to make sure that everyone understands before moving on to the next speaker.
So, just to check that I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is…
What do you mean when you say…?
Could you clarify what you mean…?
Could you give us an example…?
And by…you mean…?
4. Keep to the Time Limit
There is worse than a meeting running past home time! It is disrespectful to the team because we are all busy people and time is precious. Speak succinctly, stick to the schedule and to the topic. Also, speak gently to avoid upsetting people.
Stick to the schedule
Sorry to interrupt, can I summarise what you are saying so that we can keep on time?
Sorry to interrupt, could you summarise?
Could you please wrap it up as we need to make a decision and move onto the next point?
5. Be Decisive
As previously stated, everyone has the right to express their views. However, opposing viewpoints may lead to a problem. When this happens, the argument goes round in circles while other teammates plot their escape. To focus, agree on a clear decision-making process which becomes part of team culture. For example, sometimes the team leader listens to everyone at the meeting, then makes a final decision. Alternatively, decisions can be put to a vote, and the majority rules.
Meetings can be amazingly useful to keep people up-to-date. Use an agenda, appoint a chairperson, be professional, keep it short and find ways to make decisions collectively to be a star facilitator.
By Christelle Van Niekerk