Now, in a time when meetings are looked down upon by the everyday employee, independent contractor and even clients, you may think highly of those who send emails rather than gathering everyone in a room together. But that’s not always the right move – sometimes meetings are a must. Those who are able to call a meeting and then lead one that leaves participants feeling more productive, motivated, dedicated and energized than they did when they walked in, well, that’s quite an achievement.
A great meeting facilitator can pull together a team in a meeting and use the space to create something spectacular, whether that’s a new project idea, a financial strategy for the next quarter or a new business pitch. Here are a few ways you can ensure that you do just that.
Important meetings shouldn’t feel ordinary
If you have meeting attendees coming from all over the five New York boroughs to be at your event, it shouldn’t feel like just another task on their to-do list. If the meeting agenda requires people to be at the top of their game (like all great meetings do), they need to feel that it’s a special occasion where their skills and knowledge are essential. So, be thoughtful when organizing a location for a meeting. Choose a central location that is convenient for all parties but is also completely professional and separate from the distractions of outside influences. If your office isn’t centrally located or doesn’t have the ideal boardroom space to host a project kick-off meeting or the all-hands meeting you’ve planned, then look around for an available offsite meeting space.
It may seem simple, but all meetings should have refreshments. You don’t need to host a lunch between sessions, but have refreshments available during breaks. And yes, breaks are necessary. Important meetings don’t happen in a simple 45-minute slot. If it’s a big enough meeting that it requires everyone to gather in person rather than to reply to an email thread, make it feel like an event. By having regular breaks with refreshments, you’re encouraging attendees to mingle and engage with one another. If some of the people haven’t worked together before, it’s a great time for them to foster a relationship and build trust.
Don’t let it become a one-person-show
When you’re leading a meeting and are in charge of what needs to happen during the meeting, it can be so easy to find yourself at the front, doing all of the talking. But it’s important that you share the floor with others. A meeting should never simply involve one person doing all the speaking. The point of a meeting is to engage, and a great meeting is led by someone who understands this and does everything in their power to get everyone to speak up.
If you’re struggling to get people to speak up in the beginning, ask questions that require people to give input. Every question should lead to answers that push forward the agenda of the meeting. Once people have spoken once, they’re more likely to find themselves becoming engaged as the meeting moves on.
If you have one or two big personalities who are dominating the discourse, give them a small task that will keep them involved but perhaps require them to speak less, like drawing up ideas on the whiteboard or taking notes.
Great meetings require solid follow-through
A great meeting results in action points and a great facilitator always knows what’s meant to happen next and who will be held accountable. Your meeting agenda should always include time at the end to decide what the next steps are and who will be held accountable for each goal being reached. At Apple, for example, each meeting has a Directly Responsible Individual who will make sure that the actions agreed upon during the meeting will be completed successfully and to a high standard. Adding space for this in the agenda will ensure that the meeting you’ve just led will have the desired results.
Of course, great facilitators know how to delegate and therefore, you should not take it upon yourself to ensure tasks are completed but rather assign that task to others. If people leave a meeting with a list of actionable goals that they are directly responsible for, they will feel motivated and energized. For them, the meeting will hold a higher purpose than if they had simply sat through an hour of discussions that didn’t lead to actual work to be done and deadlines to be met.
We live in a time where meetings are thought of as unproductive and time thieves. To be able to host meetings where people leave feeling heard, motivated, energized, and have a good understanding of where a project or business venture is heading, that takes someone with exceptional skills.