Although meetings are an essential part of corporate life and vital for management and communication, holding meetings is an increasingly expensive activity. It is therefore crucial that meetings are chaired effectively.  Far too often, valuable employee time is wasted in meetings that are poorly organised, unnecessary and unproductive.

Given the ever increasing pressures on employees’ time, the growing number of mobile workers, globalised teams and organisational structures the need to run effective meetings is more acute than ever. Plan, run and follow up meetings appropriately, and they will give a good return on the investment because despite technological advances, there is still no substitute for physical face-to-face meetings.

When you chair a meeting you have authority to do so and you make demands on people’s time and attention, which you have a duty to use wisely. It is sometimes difficult to justify the time for meetings but they are an essential vehicle for communication.  Meetings diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot, they are essential in managing teams and situations and will help to achieve your objectives faster, easier and more cost efficiently.  By chairing effective meetings you will increase motivation and productivity; create new ideas and initiatives and solve problems.

However, we have all experienced meetings where participants are unprepared, lack focus and direction and the topics discussed are a waste of the participants’ time. These problems, and many others stem from poor agenda design.

An effective agenda sets clear expectations for what needs to occur before and during a meeting, it helps participants prepare, allocates time wisely, concentrates everyone’s attention on the same topic and helps to identify when the discussion is complete.

It’s usually helpful, although not essential, to note precise (planned) times for each agenda item. However for you to have thought about and planned the timings so you can run the sessions according to a schedule is vitally important. Even if the delegates don’t have precise timings on their agendas – you as the chair must have them on yours. As the chair this is one of your greatest responsibilities but it is also a common failing, so planning and firm management of this aspect of the meeting is essential. People will generally expect the chair to control the timekeeping, and will usually respect a decision to close a discussion for the purpose of running the meeting to time, even if the discussion is not concluded.

Use these tips to avoid wasteful meetings and Make Your Meetings Matter.  If meetings are ineffective then they waste time, money and resources which for the organisation and everyone concerned is worse than having no meeting at all.

To develop your Chairing Meeting Skills further talk to us about our 1 to 1 approach to developing these skills or consider our in house Chairing Meetings Effectively Course.