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Conducting Effective Meetings – Part 3 – Facilitate The Meeting (#3 in the series Conducting Effective Meetings)
By Tom Carlos (PMP)

Leave space for late arrivals: Late arrivals are inevitable. It’s always a good idea to leave available seating near the door so that late arrivals do not walk in and disrupt the meeting.

Start on time: This is the first step in maintaining control over the meeting. For every minute you start late, that is one less minute available to discuss agenda items. Do not assume that you can go beyond the designated “end time.” Chances are that participants will have other meetings obligations that require their attendance.

Stay in control and maintain order during the meeting. It’s your job to keep the meeting moving and make sure you cover agenda items during the allotted time. Therefore, you must learn how to do the following:

  • Cut off disruptions, outbursts, or other disturbances
  • Do not allow for multiple conversations – only one person has the floor at any given time
  • Do not allow for incoming calls
  • Cover agenda items only once
  • Watch the clock and allotted time for each item. Do not allow for excessive conversation on an agenda item.
  • Do not stray away from the main topics. Learn how to “park” items. Use a parking lot list for new items or those that need offline attention.

Stay positive and upbeat: Use your charm, whit, and personality to keep the meeting moving, informative, and fun. There is nothing worse than sitting through an hour (or more) of a boring and/or monotone presentation.

Work through the agenda: Address each item, line by line, and solicit discussion from the group. Make sure you address the item completely and ask for confirmation that everyone understands what has just been discussed before moving forward. Agenda items that cannot be resolved should be added to the parking list and discussed offline (or at a future meeting). Do not allow for one item to dominate the entire meeting and thus prevent you from addressing other agenda items. Your time keeper will help monitor and prevent this from happening.

Allow for input from participants: Make sure that you do not dominate the meeting by simply conveying information one-way. Meetings should be open and encourage input from all participants. They should feel comfortable in knowing their input is welcomed and appreciated. However, be cautious of antithetical contributions- those which consistently oppose viewpoints and are counterproductive to your discussion.

Usage of white board, flip charts or wall notes: Usage of these items can help meeting participants visualize ideas and stay focused. When the meeting ends, have someone gather these items and/or take digital photographs of the white board.

Create Subgroups: The meeting discussion can create situations were further attention must be given to a topic, issue, or risk. If this is the case, a may need to assemble a subgroup that will address the item and report back to the Project Manager or group. Make sure you document the creation of the subgroup in the Action Items section of the meeting minutes.

Review, Update, and Assign Action Items: Make sure that team members who are responsible for action items are aware of their responsibilities.

Allow for questions: Make sure you allow for questions and make sure you either answer them or add them to a list for future action.

Acknowledge your team members: Thank the meeting attendees for their participation and contributions to the meeting.

Summary and close: Highlight the most important items and make sure no one leaves the meeting feeling lost an unsure of what has been discussed during that session.

Tom Carlos has over 20 years of cumulative experience in business, technical, and training environments. He is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and member of the Sacramento Valley PMI Chapter. For other articles on similar subjects, you can visit www.carlosconsulting.com or contact him at tom@carlosconsulting.com.

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