1. Attendees are Often Volunteers
They are interested in the topic, making a difference or they want to meet new people. Success in the work world is almost always tied to getting to know people who can help advance our career in some way. Create an atmosphere that encourages engagement. Make sure that everyone has a chance to speak. Going around the table and asking each person to briefly give their opinion is one way to make sure everyone has the opportunity to participate.
2. Too Many Cooks
If you are setting up a work group / advisory committee limit the number of members to about 12. The larger the committee the less effective the meeting will be.
3. Know Your Neighbor
Make sure everyone knows one another. Hand out a contact list that includes the person’s title and company, have tent cards, ask everyone to say a few words about why they are there. If we know who is in the room we are more likely to understand what perspective they bring to the meeting and how getting to know them could be mutually beneficial.
4. Agenda, Agenda, Agenda
ALWAYS have an agenda. Even if you are holding a brainstorming meeting, an agenda can help everyone to understand the task at hand. Try including a short statement about the purpose of the meeting so that people will know the expected outcome. This helps to keep conversation, ideas and decisions focused. Use the agenda as a timekeeper, start on time and don’t do a replay of the meeting for people who arrive late.
5. Golden Rules
Set ground rules for the meeting. This might sound harsh or rude but most people really appreciate it. It is more than reasonable to ask people to silence their cell phone, not to text during the meeting, have only one person speak at a time, and hold no side bar conversations. These are all distractors and interrupt progress.
6. The Key is Moderation
Every meeting needs a leader. Have someone run the meeting who is engaged and can keep things moving. We have all attended meetings run by someone who is constantly checking their email, unfamiliar with the agenda, sitting idly by while chaos ensues or simply not running the meeting at all. When this happens it is distracting to the group and it wastes valuable resources.
7. Happy Ending
By summing up the key accomplishments of the group and any action items at the end of the meeting it helps to bring closure and prompts action if any is needed. And most importantly, always end the meeting on time.