This is a guest post by Ric Pratte, CEO and co-founder of AlignMeeting.
Leading an effective meeting is far more than scheduling a block of time on everyone’s calendar. As a leader. you’re the one whom people expect to set goals, provide details and move the group forward so that you can hit the goals.
When you’re leading remote or virtual teams, the challenges multiply, however, and thoughtful preparation sets you up for success and reduces drag on your progress later. Follow this advice:
Clarify the goal of the meeting
Begin with the end in mind.” – Stephen Covey
As a meeting host, you are the leader of both the discussion and the group of participants. Sharing an objective in advance of a meeting has immense impact on the overall meeting effectiveness. Having a clear, communicated goal helps when a discussion gets off track and offers you the ability to pull it back towards the goal.
Define the path to the goal
If you fail to plan then you’re planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Your agenda is the road map for the meeting, so use it to:
- Prepare and get everyone on the same page.
- Define the core components of the discussion.
- Include a topic to wrap-up and review.
Each agenda topic must be relevant and support the objective of the meeting. Consider having a goal for your agenda topics too. Be clear about what you want from people in the meeting, including suggestions, feedback, questions and alignment.
Best practice: Use verbs in your agenda topics so that they read as actions to the group. For example, “Select replacement vendor,” “Finalize topics for Q3 blog posts,” “Set schedule for product releases,” and “Recap meeting takeaways.”
Ensure everyone leaves with the same results
Contrary to popular wisdom, the mark of a great meeting is not how short it is or whether it ends on time. The key is whether it ends with clarity and commitment from participants” – Patrick Lencioni
By far, in order for a meeting to be effective, everyone must be clear on decisions made during the meeting and agree on a plan to move forward. Ensure that you always wrap up conversations by going over the action items and confirming that everyone understands the plan. Clarify who is going to do what and by when, and document everything. This is the best way to ensure that you make progress after the meeting. Be ultra-specific and you increase the chances that everyone does their part.
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.” – Dr. Suess
I find leading a meeting similar to giving a major presentation. You outline your topic, share your topic and summarize your topic to ensure your audience knows exactly what to do with the information you provide. In the same light, the agenda prepares attendees for discussion, and ensures that everyone can engage and work through the topics. Additionally, the wrap-up gives people a feeling that the time was well spent because they know exactly what to do next.
While not a complex process, too many people try to take shortcuts which ends up as a waste of time for all concerned. Don’t be that leader. Take the time to prepare and make your meetings a valuable use of time and energy.
About the Author:
Ric is CEO/Cofounder of AlignMeeting, business productivity software to increase meeting effectiveness. Ric is a long time high-tech entrepreneur and has focused on new business models in our digital world such as virtual teams, digital sales & marketing, and predictive analytics.
Previously, Ric was a President & COO of Rapid Insight, a leading provider of predictive analytics software. Prior to Rapid Insight Ric was CEO/Cofounder of JitterJam, a pioneer in SocialCRM software that was sold to Meltwater Group in 2011. Ric also was CEO/Cofounder of Campagne Associates, a leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to help non-profits drive their fundraising activities. Blackbaud, Inc. acquired Campagne in 2006.
Additionally: Currently co-leader of Sales and Marketing Innovators/Boston; Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council; New Hampshire High Technology Council; Former executive member of PRSA (Public Relations Society of America).