This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
You can usually tell within the first 30 seconds whether a meeting will be successful or a bust. It all starts with the confidence shown by the meeting leader the minute it starts.
How you manage a meeting of colleagues, clients, or a combination of both can be a good indication of your leadership abilities. Rather than being a mere facilitator working down a checklist of topics, your leadership skills are showcased if you can successfully facilitate motivation, information sharing, direction on key issues, mentoring and even a little refereeing (should two participants not see eye-to-eye, which is not uncommon in stressful business situations).
I was once in a client pitch where one of the agency presenters fell asleep. Rather than awaken him, the lead presenter let him continue napping, which shifted the group focus to the exhausted copywriter's sleep patterns. How you handle yourself in a meeting can make all the difference in your career.
Follow these 10 tips and you'll be on your way to a successful meeting.
1. Be ready.
Give people proper lead-time to ensure maximum attendance. Let them know a week in advance, when possible.
2. Be organized and prompt.
Have an agenda, start the meeting on time and end it when promised. Over one hour and you'll start to lose people.
3. Be serious.
Avoid downplaying the meeting: ("I know it's a beautiful Friday afternoon and we'd all rather be somewhere else so I'll keep our meeting short"). Take pride in the fact that you have been tasked or chosen to chair the meeting and that you take your business seriously.
4. Be confident.
Thank them for attending, but don't let them feel they are making the supreme sacrifice by not bailing. Begin the meeting by stating three key objectives and the desired duration of the meeting. Be confident in your initial greeting.
Instead of saying, "Well, uh, I don't know where everyone else is but I guess we better get started (gulp)…"
Try: "We've got lots of exciting issues to discuss today, so let's get started. Welcome – it's good to have you here."
5. Be productive.
Depending on the type of meeting, suggest to participants that to make the meeting more productive, each will conduct themselves as if they were meeting before a live studio and broadcast audience of their career influencers. Tell them their comments will be published unedited in electronic and print media on a global scale.
This will help everyone stay focused, generate better ideas, remain respectful of each other and listen carefully to others
6. Be focused.
It's your meeting and you deserve participants' full attention. Should some participants launch into side conversations, say something like, "Our time is valuable so let's all stay focused on the business at hand."
If a conversation between two participants gets adversarial and recriminations start, suggest that the three of you meet privately to discuss the issues. Do your best to restore calm as the entire group can lose energy quickly in the face of bad feelings.
7. Be fair.
Verbal or overly zealous contributors can be managed by saying, "We all appreciate your enthusiasm. To do full justice to your ideas, I'd like to suggest you and I chat after the meeting."
8. Be inclusive.
To hold participants' attention engage everyone in conversation, both before and during the meeting. Avoid too many comments (especially about socializing together) to a few people. Everyone's view counts. If you are in a meeting where you don't know all participants, before the meeting starts, make a point of walking around the table, introduce yourself, and ask about their role within the company or project. I once had a meeting guest reply early in my career, "I'm the president." Always find out who's around the table.
9. Take notes.
Take minutes or ask someone to note meeting highlights and decisions.
After you have summarized next steps and who will do what, and when, be sure to thank everyone for their time and contribution.