In last months HowTo article on running an effective meeting,
we reviewed the action items you need to take to prepare for a
successful meeting. Now youre at the meeting. What can you do,
as chair, to facilitate an efficient and effective meeting?
Start on Time, Stay on Time
Your agenda has a published start timestick to it! If you make
it a practice, meeting participants will come to expect it. Realize
that a delay in starting also causes a delay for subsequent meetings.
In addition, attendees have based their schedules on the published
agenda and failing to follow the agenda inconveniences them, may
cause you to lose valuable participants to other obligations,
or may rush the conclusion of the meeting.
Hopefully you were able to accurately gauge the time that each
topic should be discussed and the agenda will reflect your expectations.
If discussion of a topic takes longer than anticipated, however,
consider limiting discussion or debate to a designated number
of comments or a specific timeframe, saying, for example, Well
take three more comments on this topic before moving to the next
subject, or Each commenter has one minute for comments.
As chair, your focus is the conduct of a successful meeting. Dont
allow yourself to be distracted by other responsibilities. If
you dont have a regular secretary, or the secretary is not present
(something you should know in advance), then delegate the task
of taking minutes. When additional information is required to
make an informed decision, assign the task to an individual or
establish a task group and assign responsibility for providing
a recommendation at the next meeting. Delegating tasks is a good
way to develop leadership potential, engender participation and
ownership of the process from the attendees, and avoid an overload
of tasks on any one person.
Follow the Agenda
Track the agenda as it was published. This will allow you to dispense
with routine administrative items quickly and ensure that the
balance of time is reserved for the substantive issues. It is
important to take an early opportunity to state the objective
of the meeting and to ask for any changes to the agenda. This
facilitates a clear understanding of what is expected and also
allows you to plan for any necessary changes.
Control the Meeting
When chairing a meeting, it is important to remember a few guidelines.
- Remain neutral;
- Recognize all participants who wish to address a topic;
- Maintain order;
- Summarize discussions and future actions; and
- Where appropriate, use Roberts Rules of Order.
ASTMs Model Bylaws, after which many committees bylaws are fashioned,
call for the use of Roberts Rules. This version of parliamentary
procedure is appropriately used for a formal meeting or a meeting
where there may be controversial discussions or need for a formal
vote. (However, if you are chairing a task group meeting or a
creative brainstorming session, there is less likely a need for
such formal procedure. And in fact, following procedures may stifle
the creative purpose of the meeting.)
In your role as chair, it is also important to help the participants
follow rules of order by:
- Requiring a motion when presenting a topic for consideration
- Requiring a second in order to discuss a motion;
- Monitoring and facilitating debate to ensure all have an opportunity
- Facilitating presentation of opposing points of view;
- Closing discussion at the appropriate time;
- Repeating a motion so that all participants clearly understand
the purpose of the vote; and
- Announcing vote results.
If you are unsure of procedures, dont hesitate to ask your manager
Keep an Eye on the Clock
Some of most common time consumers at a meeting are:
- Repetition and re-visitation of previously discussed and decided
- Discussion of topics that are not listed on the agenda or approved
at the start of the meeting;
- Sidebar conversations;
- Lengthy discussions of controversial issues;
- Excessive wordsmithing of draft documents; and
- Failing to reach a definitive decision on an item.
Everyone wants to state his or her point of view. After all, ASTM
provides an open forum. However, theres no added value to hearing
several people repeat the same concept. Be sure that participants
are offering information that hasnt already been stated. Dont
allow unscheduled topics to distract you from the meetings objectives
and quickly quell any sidebar discussions that may start. Remember,
the opportunity to add topics to the agenda is presented at the
start of the meeting. And though we may be interested in our colleagues
latest vacation adventure, such discussion wont contribute to
the success of the meeting. Avoid any attempts to excessively
wordsmith a draft document during the course of a meeting. Such
a task should be delegated to a group. Finally, be sure that all
topics have an assigned action or are concluded before the meeting
adjourns. This might include establishment of a task group, assigning
an action item to an individual, or recording the action and related
information for non-persuasive or non-related negatives.
Coming to Closure
Shortly before the meeting ends, reinforce the accomplishment
of meeting objectives by summarizing the results. Review the action
items, assignments, and deadline dates agreed to during the course
of the meeting. There is no more effective way to discourage future
meeting participation than to allow the meeting participants to
leave the session without a clear idea of what was accomplished.
Ask if there is any uncertainty about the action items. Inquire
about new items of business for consideration at the next meeting.
Announce the time and date of the next meeting. And finally, officially
adjourn the meeting.
Many skills are required to manage the personal and professional
aspects of a meeting, but using a little forethought and the guidance
of well-established rules of order can be the ounce of trouble
prevention your group needs. //
See Part III: After the Meeting in June SN.