Chairing meetings effectively can make the difference between a rambling, off-topic conversation which makes everyone itch to be back at their desk (we’ve all been there), and a positive, productive use of every colleague’s time. Top companies – from SMEs to the largest Fortune 500 organisations – have spent years experimenting with innovative and inspiring rules for chairing meetings that all IT professionals can implement. We pick the top tips to bear in mind:
The universal rules
Professionals from every background seem to agree on three golden rules of chairing meetings. Ignore these at your peril:
1.Make sure you have an end time: Ensuring everyone is aware of time constraints at the start of the meeting helps prevent a potentially productive conversation turning into a sociable chat.
2.Have clear ‘next steps’: Successful companies insist attendees should always leave with an actionable task – as chair, you need to make sure they’re voiced and noted at the meeting’s close.
3.Have an agenda or express purpose: A carefully considered agenda – one which allots time for freer, creative discussion as well as more focussed fact swaps – ensures your meeting stays on-topic and feels constructive for all.
No shame in brainstorming
Those chairing meetings should also set aside a fixed chunk of time in the agenda that allows attendees to speak freely and bounce ideas around with no fear of being shot down or silenced. Obviously, it’s up to the chair to keep the discussion relevant, but the best ideas are often the result of affirmative, supportive dialogue. The filtering and honing can come later.
Nominate a DRI
A management concept pioneered by Steve Jobs, in the context of a meeting the DRI (directly responsible individual) simply means someone is assigned as accountable for every item on the agenda. It means there’s no muddle about who should be getting what done when the meeting draws to a close, and is one of Apple’s best-known and easily implemented strategies for breeding a culture of accountability.
Keep it positive
While Jobs, for example, was well known for his hardline interrogations of employees at meetings (sometimes bringing them to tears), current received wisdom is that there’s a definite balance to be struck between productive critiquing and OTT questioning. When chairing meetings, you have a distinct level of control over the conversation’s tone. Try to move the discussion from problems to solutions as quickly as possible, and prevent quieter members of staff from having their ideas shouted down too quickly.
The importance of take-aways
The skill of those chairing meetings is often only felt after the fact. To that end, many successful organisations strongly encourage participants to leave with a list of take-aways. Separate from ordinary notes, take-aways are 30 second summaries of the most important points each individual has absorbed from their time in the room, and make you think, listen and reflect on discussions in a much more focussed way.