Meetings are an important tool to align and coordinate multiple people. Each meeting requires a chairman or chairwoman who steers this process in order to ensure that the meeting is held in an efficient way without wasting the participant’s time. The following rules help you to become a good meeting chairman.
1) Confirm the objective of the meeting:
Everybody needs to be aligned on the purpose of the meeting at the beginning. This reduces unnecessary side discussions. Teams also work better when having a common goal. I therefore recommend starting each meeting with a greeting and the statement of the objectives for this specific meeting.
2) Define key roles:
Every meeting requires three key roles to function.
- The chairman moderates the meeting and manages the time and the agenda. It is his/her responsibility to start and end the meeting on time.
- The administrator takes the minutes and records decisions and action items. In the ideal case the administrator also follows-up on the action items to make sure that the responsible persons implement them. If there is a follow-up meeting the administrator reports on the implementation progress.
- The participants contribute to the meeting with their ideas and also are responsible for the implementation of tasks. Never assign tasks to people who are not present at the meeting. If the task itself cannot be completed by any of the participants assign someone to delegate it to the appropriate person. Since the participants are supposed to contribute with their thoughts it is important to reduce distractions. Don’t allow people to use their laptops or mobile devices to check or write e-mails during the meeting.
3) Summarize at the end of each agenda item:
Confirm all action items and decisions made at the end of each agenda item. This ensures that you can really close the item and helps the minute taker too. You might also ask the minute taker if he has any questions. The better the minutes are the less work you will have later in checking them.
4) Write and confirm minutes during the meeting:
I have seen a company that had two projectors with two screens in each meeting room. One screen was to share the presentation material related to the agenda. The second screen was usually reserved for the minute taker and every participant confirmed that the wording of the minutes correct. This procedure allows agreeing on the minutes during the meeting so that there is no necessity to send around drafts for confirmation. This saves time to all participants and the implementation of actions and decisions starts immediately after the meeting.
If you do not have the space or budget for such a technically perfect solution you can also help yourself with a large display on the meeting table or by reading the wording of the minutes loudly at the end of each agenda item.
5) Close the meeting on time:
As a general principle you should close each meeting on time, regardless if you are the chairman or a participant. As a chairman people will very soon know you habit and act in a way that in a way that allows finishing all items within the planned time. As a participant you can state that you have to go to the next meeting or that you scheduled a phone call. Finishing a meeting on time is not only a good time saver but also a courtesy to all other participants who have busy schedules too.
6) Properly close the meeting:
When the meeting come to an end properly close it. Thank all participants for their contributions and confirm the most important decisions and action items. If you know that the ream requires another meeting on this project or topic immediately arrange the schedule for the next meeting. With everyone at the table it requires significantly less coordination effort. What usually might take up to an hour or more will be completed within a few minutes.