If you are a middle or senior leader then one of the most important skills you can have is meeting management.
One of the first things to consider is whether the meeting is even needed in the first place. There are so many meetings held that don’t need to be simply because they are the done thing.
How many times have we seen mentally and emotionally exhausted staff crawl away from a meeting complaining that the meeting was a “complete waste of time”?
If it can be done by email then do it – some meetings can be completely wiped off the calendar like this. Sometimes there are more effective ways to communicate what you want to say and discuss.
Getting input is important but sometimes you can make a decision without democratising everything. Why should everyone have to sacrifice their time if you can make a decision yourself?
It’s crucial to specify why you want to organise a meeting. If you need one then ask yourself what it is you want to achieve? Ask: “What will I want people to have learned, achieved or solved?”
Planning a successful meeting takes planning and deliberate effort. Let’s consider 5 main things:
1. Who attends?
Who attends your meeting needs to be carefully considered and edited. Make it as short as possible and only those staff who have a clear role to play should be invited.
2. The agenda
Every meeting has to have a goal. If you can define what that goal is then you can eliminate all the superfluous stuff. Create a specific agenda so that your colleagues know what’s up for discussion and send it to them before the meeting. A single item agenda is best.
Long meetings are counter-productive – attention spans can’t cope. Keep a meeting as short as possible because this ensures everyone is focused on the agenda. No more than an hour please. If you can do it in 15 minutes then aim for that.
4. Meeting time
No one wants a meeting on a Friday afternoon. Then again no one particularly wants one on a Monday or mid-week on hump-day. Ideal meeting time – Thursday afternoon.
The environment has a huge impact on our productivity. If you can hold a meeting in natural light then that’s better than artificial. Avoid using the same room every time, take a meeting outside or at least stand up for the meeting.
If you are the person organising the meeting and chairing the meeting then that makes you the Meeting Manager. It’s not an official job title for a teacher but this is just one of the many roles we perform under the umbrella ‘teacher’.
Effective meetings are interesting, high-energy events where everyone feels like they have made a difference and had a say.
As a Meeting Manager it is your job to make sure the meeting runs effectively, everyone contributes and the meeting objectives are met. It isn’t actually a role that involves much speaking – most of that is done to those attending.
The hardest part of running a meeting is keeping on top of things. Some staff won’t stop talking, some won’t speak up and discussions can easily go off at a tangent.
Right from the outset, whoever is running the meeting needs to ask all those attending if they understand the agenda and focus. Be polite and insist that anything off-track will be ignored. You can suggest a separate meeting where you can discuss anything unrelated. Be a role model leader and own the meeting.
At the end of the meeting summarise what has been discussed, what actions have been assigned, and to whom. Set a date for the next meeting but only if needed or necessary.
If a meeting has been managed effectively then everyone leaves with a sense of purpose and actionable tasks.