How to hone your meeting skills
Time is precious when it comes to team meetings. Without organisation and discipline, they are likely to be ineffective.
Having well-organised meetings improves staff engagement and results in clear action points to move projects forward.
This sounds obvious, but it isn’t as simple as you may think. There’s an art to organising meetings to ensure they actively involve all members and achieve their goals. Meetings can be great opportunities to discuss challenges, share ideas and define action plans – or they can become unproductive time-wasters.
Why are meeting skills so important?
To make sure your meetings fall into the first category, learn how to hone your meeting skills. Just like everything we strive to do, organising meetings gets easier with practice and experience. When you succeed, all attendees will leave the meeting feeling like it’s been time well spent.
The process starts in the pre-meeting stage when the date, time and place are organised and the aims for the meeting are established. When clarifying the aims of the meeting and what you feel the team should be able to get done, ensure you have realistic expectations. If you’re aiming too high and in truth have no way of completing your plans, you will be left with a sense of failure.
What roles should team members have?
Assign meeting roles, so that everyone is on the same page and they know exactly what is expected of them. This can be split into clearly defined duties such as leader, facilitator, minute-taker, timekeeper and participants.
The leader prepares the agenda and helps the team move through it, encouraging participation from all present; as the title suggests, the timekeeper makes sure the meeting doesn’t overrun by tracking how long each agenda item takes and renegotiating the time allocation if necessary; the facilitator keeps track of the items to be actioned, alerts the group if the discussion begins to veer off track and they also handle miscellaneous things, such as car parking lists and passes; the minute-taker keeps a clear record of everything that is said and makes sure that everyone receives a copy of the minutes as soon as possible. These are all key roles in the meetings process.
The agenda should be reviewed prior to the meeting to determine how much time needs to be spent on each item. At the meeting, the timekeeper should raise the alarm if the business in hand is over-running.
Why should you evaluate the meeting?
After the agenda items have been discussed, the organiser should review the action points and make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and what’s required of them before the next meeting. Then, set the date for the next meeting and finally, evaluate the event to see if it achieved its aims.
It’s also useful to ask delegates, via email, to give their thoughts on what went well and what could be improved, in order to shape future meetings. This could be something as simple as asking everyone to score the meeting from one to ten and add comments on what went to plan and what they weren’t happy about.
By continually using this structured approach, you will be able to hone your meeting skills, while improving the flow of the meeting and helping attendees feel more comfortable.
What happens without effective organisation?
Without using skills such as good organisation and timekeeping, forward-planning and allocating particular tasks to team members, a meeting can quickly descend into the type no-one wants to own: one that’s considered a waste of time.
At the end of the meeting, if you feel everyone contributed, it ran at a good pace and stayed on topic, you can consider a level of success has been achieved. If there are points in the feedback that suggest improvements in some areas, don’t take it as a negative, but rather use it to shape future events.
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