Five tips for ensuring that a meeting stays on track

If only you could run your business meetings like Nicholas Parsons chairs Just A Minute.

The host of the popular, long-running BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game challenges participants to speak on a subject for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

You wish …

But, hold on, why can’t you stage meetings that approach that kind of functionality?

And, as Just A Minute has proven, they could still be fun and lively.

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So how can this be achieved? The following five tips should help keep a meeting on-subject and save your business valuable time and money:

Strong leadership

Whoever is conducting the meeting should know how to steer such gatherings. This means following an agenda and ensuring that the meeting moves along at an acceptable pace without losing key detail. Establish clearly and concisely to all present what the meeting is being held for. Be intelligible about what outcome you wish to achieve. Ask attendees if they have anything else to add before moving on to the agenda’s next item. Keep control at all times. Check to ensure that everyone is, literally as well as metaphorically, reading from the same page. In most formal meetings, attendees normally adhere to strict parliamentary processes. This means detailed yet streamlined agendas and keeping, if possible, to a strict time-frame.

Keep it focused

Ramblers are for countryside tracks, not for business meetings. If one attendee is a “serial offender”, make a point of warning them that they will only have a set amount of time. It is often a case of deferring rather than denying when a rambler goes off-subject. This means asking them to discuss the matter with you later on a one-to-one basis. Or you can accommodate their gripe at a future meeting where it will get the extra time and consideration it deserves.

Crowd control

Are there people in your meeting who shouldn’t be in there because the subject(s) have no great relevance to them? Be clear in your own mind about this before you invite each person to the conference. If not, you run the risk of disenfranchising attendees and creating bored, disruptive elements.

Achieving the right tone

You’d never plough through any agenda if you had a roomful of comedians. Similarly, if the same room was solely populated by robots, things would get heavy and creative thought processes could become submerged. So achieving the gossamer line between heaviness and lightness is vital. The office joker might bring much-needed light relief with an isolated quip. But two or three further flippant interjections and they run the risk of hijacking the meeting’s fluency for their own comedic, attention-drawing purposes.

All’s well that end’s well

You don’t want confused staff leaving the conference, shaking their heads and whispering: “What was all that about and what was it for?” Stand-up comedians know the benefit of having good starts and even better finishes. Leave the attendees with a digestible summary of what’s been said and what’s been achieved and how you plan to go forward from here.


Posted by Julie Tucker

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