There may be times in your professional career when you will be called upon to lead (or as it’s sometimes called “chair”) a business meeting.
This is a big subject and specialist training is available to cover it but here are some top tips that will help. Some of these will draw upon your martial arts training and confidence development skills.
- Prepare for the meeting thoroughly. Do not try and “wing it” as you go along.
- Be sure that you know what you or any of the meeting’s sponsors expect to get out of the session. That is called “setting your objectives” and during the meeting, you will need to work to keep the discussion relevant to reaching those specific objectives. This is called “setting and managing the agenda”
- Identify all the people that need to be at the meeting to make it a success. Do whatever it takes to get them to attend.
- If you do not have the people necessary to help reach the meeting’s objectives, then cancel it. If the right people aren’t there the meeting will simply turn into a “talking shop” that achieves little, if anything.
- Make it clear you are controlling the meeting. Do not let your role be usurped or the meeting’s objectives hijacked.
- Be firm and stay in control but remember, being authoritative and being dictatorial are two very different things.
- Do not monopolise the session. Remember, a meeting is meant to be a working interaction between parties – not an opportunity for the chairperson to show how important they are by making epic speeches.
- Guillotine discussions that are going off-mission. It saves time.
- If someone challenges one of your points, do not take it personally. Avoid instinctively trying to “crush” the person making the observation. Instead, consider it rationally and be prepared to acknowledge that you may be wrong.
- In general terms, chairing a meeting means doing far more listening and gentle encouraging than talking. If you find you are doing 80% of the talking then your session has become a lecture and not a meeting.
- Ask someone to take the minutes of the meeting. If you don’t, people afterwards may forget what was agreed or dispute what was said. Don’t try to take the minutes yourself.
- The minutes of a meeting are useless unless they are subsequently distributed. Make sure all attendees get a copy.
- At the end of the meeting, don’t forget to thank people for attending and for the time they’ve invested.
Follow these basic steps and you will be well on your way to becoming a good meeting chairperson!