Leading and Participating in Meetings

Leading and Participating in Meetings

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How can I enhance my professional presence in a meeting?

Whether you are leading the meeting or are an attendee, you want to come across as an active participant with a strong professional presence. Here are a few things you can do to enhance your credibility, show concern, and build trust in meetings:

  • Look at people in the eyes when you speak and as others speak to you
  • Sit straight, and lean slightly forward
  • Keep your hands apart, and gesture naturally
  • Rest your forearms on the table when you’re not gesturing
  • Nod and periodically take notes when others are speaking to show you are listening
  • Ask questions and offer opinions

What items should I include in my meeting agenda?

An agenda is important and should ideally be distributed prior to the meeting. Your agenda should include items in three main areas:

  • Action Report
    List topics that are “in process”, such as follow up items from a previous meeting or discussion. In your agenda, include the names of the people or departments who will comment on these topics at the meeting. In this way, these people know to come prepared
  • New Topics
    List new topics. You may also want to include the names of people who will lead the discussion for each topic. The meeting leader does not necessarily have to lead every topic at the meeting. In this section, you might also want to include a topic called “other topics”, so people can bring up anything else they’d like to discuss.
  • Next Meeting
    Publish this date on the pre-meeting agenda.  Although this date may be tentative, it will remind you to set a date for a follow up meeting, and to see if people can make it to the date you’ve proposed.
  • Optional
    To acknowledge the hard work of others, you may want to include a formal mechanism for people to thank others in the meeting. You can put it on the agenda, and perhaps call it Applause! Applause!

When should I publish an agenda?

Publish your agenda in advance – ideally, the day before the meeting. Allow staff time to prepare for the meeting, to complete tasks, and, if appropriate, to prepare to present results.

When during a meeting should I bring up an important topic that requires discussion?

Ideally, you want to place an important issue that will generate discussion after topics that are straightforward. In this way, the group accomplishes some business first and avoids focusing all its attention on only one topic.

How do I involve others in a meeting, especially quiet people?

As a leader, it’s your job to involve everyone at the meeting. You can relay topics to other staff members to discuss. You can also open topics to the group before offering your own opinion. You can ask quieter people open-ended questions to encourage them to share their thoughts.

Who should take minutes during a meeting?

In the ideal world, the meeting leader should enlist someone else to take detailed notes during the meeting. In this way, the meeting leader can focus his or her energies on managing the group dynamics, soliciting input from others, and keeping the meeting on track. If someone else takes notes, the meeting leader will still end up with an accurate record of meeting discussions.

How do I get a meeting back on track if someone goes off on a tangent?

As a meeting leader, you should summarize periodically. After gathering different people’s perspectives, you might say something like: “These seem to be the key ideas expressed.” “I think what we have agreed to thus far is…”. Summarizing is a useful technique that helps group members feel involved in the process.

You can also use this summarizing technique to help get a discussion back on track. If someone goes off on a tangent, you can say the person’s name, summarize their concern and tie it back to the main topic. If appropriate, you can invite the person to meet with you after the meeting to discuss his or her concern in more detail.

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