You may have worked hard in the organization and have received a promotion or two along the way. But along with the increased responsibilities comes the need to run meetings. In order for the meetings to achieve their objectives, there are certain things you need to do as the leader of the session. Read on to learn what it takes to be an effective meeting leader.
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. This is the cardinal rule for anyone responsible for running a meeting. First, know the subject matter cold and be able to answer any questions about it. Second, prepare and circulate an agenda for the meeting that not only shows what will be covered and by whom, but also indicates when the meeting will start and end. Third, try to avoid surprises by checking with the meeting participants before the meeting to get a sense of how they might approach the agenda items.
Be on time. Everyone is pressured to do more during the workday than they'd like. So there is nothing more aggravating than to have someone call you to a meeting then be late. Respect people's time by being at the meeting ahead of schedule, and start the meeting on time even if some participants haven't yet arrived. By doing this, your respect for participants' time will be reciprocated.
Stick with the agenda and the time allotted for each item. How many meetings have you attended where much of the discussion was not on point? Most of those meetings were much less effective than if the person running them had insisted on staying with the agenda. As leader of the meeting, you need to be forceful without being rude.
Try to build consensus around your point of view among those people in attendance. That said, it is always advisable to listen to a contrary opinion because, quite often, you will be persuaded to change your mind upon reflection.
Above everything else, be honest. Even though you will move forward by executing plans according to a majority vote, the meeting leader has many opportunities to voice his opinion, regardless of whether it is shared by others. Being honest and forthright are characteristics that should always be demonstrated by the person running any meeting. You may not get your way, but the attendees will respect you for being honest.
Bill Herrfeldt specializes in finance, sports and the needs of retiring people, and has been published in the national edition of "Erickson Tribune," the "Washington Post" and the "Arizona Republic." He graduated from the University of Louisville.