Over the course of your career, you’ll attend many business meetings that remind you of that axiom about “herding cats.” (Spoiler Alert: You can’t herd cats.)
This is sad, because it’s not hard to organize a successful business meeting if you’re willing to do a little extra work.
That’s because meetings are public speaking scenarios — and they benefit from the same skill set you’ve been working hard to develop!
To Run Effective Business Meetings, Be Willing to Take Charge
As with any kind of public speaking, your attitude is everything. (Well, not quite everything; but your attitude is key to acing everything else!)
In the case of business meetings, someone must be accountable for what a meeting produces, and if you’re leading the meeting, that someone is you.
Even if you’re not the meeting leader, you can help by sharing these suggestions in advance, and modeling them as you participate.
To run a business meeting effectively, do your homework in advance:
- Decide what you want to accomplish, whose help you need to accomplish it, and how you want to organize whatever discussion will be needed during the meeting.
- Create a very specific agenda. Put times next to each item, and stick to them.
- At the end of the meeting, review who’s offered to do what, get them to agree that they’ll do what they said, and then follow up with the whole group in writing.
If you need support of any kind to pull this off — encouragement, logistics, someone to take notes or have your back during the meeting itself — make sure that you get it. Tell your A-Team exactly how they can help you create a successful outcome in your meeting and beyond.
Use Your Public Speaking Skills to Run Business Meetings that Produce Results, Not Resentment
Since your meeting attendees aren’t all going to fall right in line (they’re human, after all!), remember that you can be pleasant and firm at the same time.
This is particularly important when it comes to not letting discussions or arguments run wild.
Setting boundaries may feel awkward at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable it will become. To hasten that moment, practice smiling with sincerity as you say things like,
Juan, I’m sorry to cut you off, but I think we’re all ready to vote.”
Shari, let me ask a few other people to comment.”
Bob, I’m sorry but I promised we’d be out of here by 5pm, and I’m going to stick to that.”
People will handle these kinds of interruptions well if they know in advance that you plan to intervene. To put your meeting attendees on notice, try starting off with a “preview of coming attractions” like this one:
We’ve got a lot to talk about today, and I’ll be working hard to get us out of here on time. So I need to ask all of you to support that process and stick with the agenda I passed out. Please try not to repeat things other people have said, or repeat things that you’ve already said. And please don’t be upset if I stop you so that other people can have a chance to comment. Is everyone OK with that?
Of course everyone will say yes! Even the people who feel this way will probably not say,
I’m the only person in this room who counts so I don’t care if nobody but me gets a word in edgewise.
Once everyone has agreed to behave, use your public speaking skills and confidence (put on your public speaking Avatar!) to keep them on track. Jump in as needed to curb unnecessary conversation and keep everyone focused on reaching the goals you’ve outlined in the meeting agenda.
It may take a few tries before people realize that the rules have changed. But once they start working as a team that’s focused on success, they’ll discover that disciplined meetings are worth the effort.
Meetings don’t have to be verbal torture.
In fact, they can even be fun!
Want More Tips? This Free Handout is For You!
If you want more tips, or a visual reminder of this post, just download this free handout on how to Run an EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MEETING and go to town!