Everyone has been to a meeting that got out of control at some point during the meeting. Regardless of when meeting control was lost, out-of-control meetings rarely accomplish anything relevant and may even result in bad attitudes and low morale among employee or volunteer participants. The primary key to controlling a meeting is for the meeting leader, chair, or facilitator to plan properly. An essential key to a successful participatory meeting is for everyone in the group to feel they have a right to voice their opinions and help bring a meeting back into control when necessary. Below are three tips to for achieving these keys.
Tip #1 – Purpose Statement
Start by planning the meeting, which means having a real purpose for holding the meeting and an action plan for the meeting process. Make sure everyone who attends understands the purpose of the meeting. To do this, send the purpose statement out to everyone when meeting invites go out. Do not invite people to the meeting who can not help you achieve the purpose. Restate the purpose at the beginning of the meeting before introductions. If a purpose was not supplied before the meeting, allow for anyone who does not feel that the purpose affects them or the group they represent to leave if they desire. Having people at the meeting who do not feel ownership in the purpose can result in them not participating in discussions or their wanting to change the meeting agenda to meet their own needs.
Tip #2 – Agenda
Once a purpose is established, it becomes easy to create an action plan. The meeting action plan is called an agenda. Make sure there is an agenda that supports the purpose. Each item on the agenda should be an action that needs to be taken in order to accomplish the meeting purpose. Once the items are listed, organize them in a logical flow. If possible, send the agenda to the participants in the meeting invite or as a reminder prior to the meeting. Review the pre-set agenda after any necessary introductions in the meeting. If an agenda was not pre-planned, take a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting to create an agenda and decide on the flow. Having time limits set on the agenda will aid the meeting in starting and stopping on-time as well. Make sure all participants agree to the proposed agenda at the beginning of the meeting as this can prevent side issues later.
Tip #3 – Issues List
The person in charge of the meeting can keep the meeting moving by using the agenda to check progress and remind the group when it needs to move on. Anyone in the meeting can use the agenda to refocus the group if someone starts to stray off subject or tries to change the order of the process. Simply remind the group that everyone agreed to the current agenda and ask if they still feel that is the route the group needs to take. Unless an emergency issue has come up, the group will typically decide to continue with the original agenda. However, be sure to record any new issues as something the group may want to review at a later time. Having an issues list lets anyone who wanted to discuss something else know they were heard and the need has been noted by the group. So people don’t feel their issues were not thought important, be sure to revisit them at the end of the meeting by reviewing the new issues to see if actions need to be assigned or if an item needs to be placed on a future meeting agenda.
The keys to controlling a meeting is to plan properly, that participants feel they have the right to participate in the meeting, and everyone should expect an action plan for the meeting. Follow these three tips to make sure meetings do not become out-of-control by stating a meeting purpose, creating and using an agenda to control the meeting flow, and keeping an issues list to prevent distraction from purpose and agenda.