As an entrepreneur or small business owner, your platform may – more often than not – be a meeting room. Whether you’re selling a prospect, pitching for funding, or speaking to employees, how you conduct the meeting is as critical as the message.
How you present yourself when chairing a meeting communicates trust and leadership. Consider these tips when you’re in charge of the meeting:
Start with why. What is the strategic intent of the meeting? What outcomes do you want to achieve? These questions will keep the meeting focused and purposeful.
Clarify your role. Who called the meeting? Are there reporting relationships? If you’re the boss, people may be scared to speak their minds .If you’re not the boss, what do people expect from you as the chair? How do you expect people to work together?
Establish a positive atmosphere. Greet people before they sit down. Create rapport with some light humor. People will more easily let down their guard if they feel comfortable. Offer coffee if appropriate. People bond around food and drink.
Distribute a written agenda. The agenda is key for keeping the meeting on track. Let the group know the time frame and guidelines for meeting. “We have 20 minutes today. I will update you on the company situation, and then I’d like us to brainstorm some solutions to the challenges we face.”
Begin on time. Don’t wait for stragglers unless they are the buyers. By starting and ending on time, you’ll condition people to be punctual.
Generate interest with an enticing title. Instead of a management topic about “Business Etiquette” title it “What’s Rudeness Costing You?” Assign a person to take minutes so that you can later review discussions that took place and the decisions that were made.
Manage group dynamics. Don’t allow any person to dominate. Solicit other opinions. If some members are quiet, draw them out by asking for their thoughts. Make sure everyone is heard.
Handle conflicts fairly. Elicit cooperation by clarifying what people said and then asking the group to propose solutions. Heated arguments may require a timeout in which group members take a short break and reassemble later.
Appoint a timekeeper. This is especially critical if time is a major constraint or the group is not focused.
Give short summaries. Recap main points before going on to the next area. This will ensure clear communication and facilitate getting buy in from the members.
End with the next step. Meetings fail because people aren’t held accountable. Summarize the action steps for group members and attach a time frame to each action. To get commitment to assign a deadline.
By following these tips you’ll run more effective meetings, gain respect as a confident leader, and your company will be more productive.
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Diane DiResta is Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact — whether one-to-one, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform. DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an Amazon.com category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses and author of the new ebook, Give Fear the Finger, www.diresta.com.
Copyright © Diane DiResta 2014. All rights reserved.
Image: © Raimond Spekking, via Wikimedia Commons.