often degenerate into a disorganized free-for-all. That’s because whenever you get a group together, maintaining everyone’s focus proves a tough challenge.
To make meetings move faster, distribute an agenda beforehand that provides time frames for each area of discussion. Leave room for flexibility if unexpected issues arise, but use the printed time guidelines to rein in a wayward group.
Take these steps to maximize efficiency throughout the meeting:
Stop talking when side conversations erupt. If you let people whisper among themselves for even a few moments, you can bet they will do it again—and for longer periods.
By stopping yourself in midsentence, you send a silent signal that you will not tolerate side chatter. Everyone will get the message and keep quiet until they have the floor.
Start on time. Respect those who show up at the appointed hour by diving right into the agenda. If you wait five minutes or more, you begin on a discordant note as attendees either resent having to wait or decide to address the issues themselves before you call the meeting to order.
Engage virtual team members. If some participants call in, don’t neglect them. Keep prompting them by name to chime in. Position the speakerphone so that it’s front and center on the conference table, not off in a forgotten corner.
Cut the repetition. Once the group starts repeating a point, move on. When managers agree with a topic, they may let everyone pile on and restate what’s already been made clear. Tell speakers who want to second what they’ve just heard to simply say, “I agree,” without rehashing the entire point.
Bottom Line Idea
After you informally discuss a project with a few employees and refer to tasks that require attention, follow up with a short e-mail that summarizes who will do what. Specify the nature of each assignment and include deadlines. A short written confirmation of the discussion raises everyone’s accountability and clarifies any ambiguities about each person’s commitment going forward.