Many individuals are nervous to run a meeting, as they don’t want to seem too lax or too strict, too prepared or not enough – but the truth is, running meetings well takes practice, which means that we all started out unpracticed at some point in time.
So, if you’re wondering what the perfect template for how to run your next meeting is, you’ll be sorely disappointed when you learn that every industry, every team, and every business’ ‘perfect’ template might differ slightly. And that’s okay!
Uniformity doesn’t make something better and trying to push every company or meeting into a limited box doesn’t help anyone. However, with this title, I promised a template, and a template I will give.
Here are five ways to run a meeting so that it can be perfect for your company – but remember, practice makes perfect.
1. Prep & Plan (Beforehand)
You truly cannot whirl into a meeting as the curator at the last minute and have it run smoothly. Even if you could – your meeting goers are not in the right mindset.
It’s a little like having your therapist or doctor whirl into the room at the last minute, plop down in their chair, and try to dive into a conversation with you – it throws people off and wastes precious time that you could be using more efficiently.
Come into the room a few minutes early, calmly, prepared, and with your outline for the meeting in hand (or, in mind).
2. Know Your Subjects
Speaking of outlines – you need to know what this meeting is about and what you want to talk about. This doesn’t have to be a traditional memo paper or true-to-form outline, but at the very least, it has to be an idea in your head of the areas you want to talk about, the subjects you want to hit, and the direction each subject will follow.
And this isn’t really as difficult as it sounds – maybe when you first start leading meetings you’ll type out the 6 subjects you want to talk on with a couple of points beneath each and print it. Maybe eventually you’ll move to quick notes you jot down by hand. And then you’ll get to a point where you have the outline in your head – and all three stages are just fine.
How you prepare isn’t nearly as important as being prepared.
3. Have a Beginning & End (& Stick to It)
This adds structure to your meeting and also helps you establish authority as the leader or curator of the meeting. Not only does this give structure to the actual meeting, but to the day as well.
If subjects are running away from the team, then you can call them back with time in mind. If some discussions only require a couple individuals instead of everyone, table the discussion for later with just those involved (with the time of the others in mind). And encourage all meeting goers to be on-time by promising that the meeting will also end on-time.
Between structure, a focus on the value of time, and promising both a hard start and stop time, this tip alone can completely change the tone of your meetings.
4. Assign Projects, Actionable Items, & Plans Clearly
As the curator of the meeting and the leader of the team, you need to be the one who sets the pace, tone, and yes – who assigns the projects.
The point of a meeting is to 1. Communicate, but also 2. Plan for the future. But planning can sometimes seem daunting when you’ve talked about five subjects or tasks – and this is where your delegation skills come in.
You need to say who will be doing what clearly and concisely so that everyone present knows what is expected of them. Maybe it is just telling one member of the team to gather and print the meeting notes, maybe it’s about a particular project discussed, maybe it’s a brainstorming session and the ideas need to be followed up on.
Whatever the actionable items and projects are – you need to assign them clearly.
5. Get Formal (& Informal) Feedback
In the end, no meeting is perfect, as it is run by imperfect people, deals with other imperfect people, and depends on so many external and internal factors. Are the meeting goers hungry? Sleepy? Did their coffee turn cold? Do they have project deadlines looming that they would rather be working on? Did your team get off-track multiple times and you had to rein them in?
Whether none of the above apply, or all of them do, make sure you get formal feedback about your meeting so it can always keep improving. Have people write or share what they thought was a strength and a weakness of the meeting, and area where they learned and an area they could have done without, etc.
Feedback doesn’t have to be a huge deal, and it doesn’t have to be scary – it can even just be jotting down your positive and negative feelings about the meeting, but it can do a world of good, as it encouraged us as meeting leaders to always keep growing and improving. And isn’t that the goal?
Ready to Run Your Own Meeting?
I hope you feel better prepared to run your own meeting now, but even if you don’t – remember that practice makes perfect. I run many meetings with my team at JSL Marketing & Web Design now, but I didn’t always feel as confident as I do now.
Allow yourself time to grow, learn, and take in the feedback from your team – it really will help.
For more tips and articles, check back weekly for my newest posts! Or contact me for one-on-one training, speaking engagements, consulting services or sales coaching. Feel free to browse my newly launched website too – JamesLeff.com!