Step 2: Communicate expectations clearly
Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your meeting, it’s time to set clear expectations and communicate them.
It’s essential to let everyone know what you’d like to achieve in the meeting so that the group is on the same page when it starts. A quick way to do this is to review the agenda at the beginning of the meeting and go over the goals you’d like to accomplish by the end of the session. This will help keep the meeting on track and give attendees a clear direction as to where the meeting is headed and what they should expect to contribute.
Clear communication is one of the most effective skills a professional can develop. It not only helps you accomplish what you need to at the meeting, but it also helps ensure everyone feels engaged and productive.
If you’re holding an in-person meeting, communicate the start and finish times as well as an agenda. Those two steps go a long way toward keeping everything on track.
Encouraging positive behavior among attendees is also crucial. It’s OK to politely remind participants to avoid side conversations and distractions so that you maintain productivity. One way to do this is to say, “Hey, everyone, as a reminder, here is where we are on the agenda, and this is what we have left to accomplish. Let’s turn our attention back to the goal of this meeting so we can wrap up on time.”
One of the biggest potential embarrassments with virtual meetings is the mute-unmute conundrum. To avoid unintended comments or chatter, mute everyone’s microphones before the meeting begins. (Most meeting platforms have a function where the presenter can mute and/or unmute all attendees.) Start the meeting muted, tell everyone they are muted and invite them to unmute and participate when necessary.
Step 3: Breathe and follow the agenda
Take a breath. You have set yourself up for running an effective meeting. Breathe again, begin the meeting and follow the agenda. Sticking to the agenda is vital to running a productive meeting.
I have attended countless meetings where conversations have veered off track. It can feel challenging to redirect these discussions. However, as the meeting leader, keeping discussions on track will prevent wasting time, let you cover necessary topics and keep everyone engaged and focused.
In-person meetings offer a certain advantage when it comes to staying on track: body language. If the conversation takes a detour to the land of tangents and anecdotes, you can nod, avert your eyes and, during the pause, say something like, “I hear you on that, but let’s table this conversation for now, grab time to discuss it later, and return our focus to the agenda.”
In online meetings, the silence can be deafening. Are they paying attention? Are they even there? To keep everyone focused and also prevent distractions, try incorporating visual aids like slides, charts or graphs. Tell key participants at the beginning that you’ll be asking for their input later. And, if distractions occur, redirect the conversation to the agenda.