Leading a meeting effectively is a skill that can be taught — and once professionals internalize the related lessons, the company’s overall productivity may rise.
Think about where your company gets things done, from planning for the future to iterating on valuable ideas. These kinds of actions take place at meetings, sometimes within a single department and at other times bringing in experts from throughout the organization. If the gatherings stay on track, with a specific agenda and a unifying theme, every meeting is a chance to make progress. When leadership is lacking, on the other hand, employees may walk away from a session unhappy about how much time they’ve just wasted.
The ability to keep a meeting on topic is not an innate ability or something a person is born with. Rather, this is a specific kind of communication skill and as such it can be imparted through effective training. Due to the fact that meetings are the crucible for important and impactful business decisions, helping with this one particular element of team member skills can help the whole business get on track and stay there.
What Makes a Great Meeting?
To get accustomed to the idea that meeting management is a skill that can be taught, it helps to consider just how much planning and execution goes into keeping a session running smoothly. Rather than just showing up and winging it, the best group leaders are those who can get others to pay attention and follow along with an agenda, taking a minimum amount of time by making every minute count.
Contributing to Inc. magazine, business advisor and author David Finkel laid out what a good meeting looks like. For example, every single gathering within or across teams should have a formalized plan. Overall organizational leaders should ensure it is an accepted part of the company culture to set up agendas and have a dedicated point person for each meeting to keep all participants on time and on task.
The person tasked with being the group leader should guide the whole process, from getting the group together in a timely manner to checking off every point on the agenda and sending everyone back to their normal tasks before they start to get distracted. Rather than hoping someone else will take responsibility for leading the group or assuming the meeting will carry itself along on its own momentum, an effective leader is someone who makes it a personal point to get everything done.
Finkel added that any good, productive session concludes with a recap and a statement of responsibilities. There should not be any ambiguity over what the group agreed to, what people should do next or what the timelines are for upcoming projects. The person who took point during the meeting should be proactive about contacting the other participants after the fact to make sure their next steps are still on track, as established during the session.
How Should Leaders Handle Virtual and Remote Meetings?
The increasing use of communications technology at companies of all kinds has changed the calculus around meeting management. Now, many gatherings are held digitally, or with at least a few participants joining via audio or video link, and this new normal has changed the best practices of meeting management. Effective and up-to-date training on leadership should include some specifics about remote meeting participation, to ensure this common feature doesn’t undercut effectiveness.
Fast Company pointed out one of the most common risks associated with virtual meetings is participants who aren’t able to appear in person may be tempted to multitask and work on other things during the session, especially if there is only audio conferencing with no video. Bringing these employees back into the fold via interactive features such as a shared document to work with, or simply enabling a video feed to make them feel more engaged with the group can counteract the tendency toward distraction.
Sometimes, the best way to maximize the value of a virtual meeting is to focus on the same practices that make an in-person gathering go well. For instance, Fast Company emphasized the importance of a wrap-up at the end of each conference call or digital session to recap the best ideas, or even to positively call out the person who contributed the most value.
What Types of Training Are Available?
When you train key employees or whole teams in the best practices of meeting leadership, you can select from more general or specific course types. Some courses isolate specific facets of management, such as keeping remote participants on task, while others deal with more general soft skills and communication abilities.
Whichever approach you take to training your employees, there can be real benefits and value for your company. Once meetings start proceeding more effectively, with points being carefully noted instead of overlooked, there will be less need for extended or repetitive discussions. Issues can be settled quickly and succinctly, and everyone can stay on task, guided by dedicated and well-prepared leaders at each session.
A few new courses from MasteryTCN on effective meetings include: