Managing Your Meetings

Meetings receive a bad rap. This tongue-in-cheek quotation is the sentiment of many:  “If something is urgent, do it yourself. If you have time, delegate it. If you have forever, call a meeting.”

Here are tips on making your next meeting profitable and helpful to all concerned.

  1. Make your rules clear at the outset. For example, let everyone know in the beginning how long the meeting will last. (If it is going to be more than a couple of hours, include a break.) Make a statement about smart phones, texting, and any other technology that could interfere with the quality of discussion. If you want to limit discussion time on each item, let group members know that up front.
  2. Be pleasant. Smile often, use open posture, call people by name, greet people when they come into the room, and show appreciation. Pleasantness goes a long way in earning the cooperation of all group members.
  3. Allow some flexibility. There are exceptions to most rules. The nature of the topic or the people involved may necessitate some adjustments in the rules you established in the beginning.
  4. Don’t chastise someone in public. Have a private conversation after the meeting or a day later. However, do not allow aberrant behavior. I think profanity, making another person look bad publicly, people having their own conversations to the point that it interrupts the flow of the discussion, and heckling are all possible reasons tactfully to call attention to the behavior.
  5. Rely on peer pressure to help you out. For example, if there is a private conversation occurring as someone is speaking, the people sitting near the disturbance may say something to the guilty party. If someone is not speaking loudly enough, a member of the group might encourage the speaker from the back of the room.
  6. Limit discussion. Don’t allow a discussion to go on too long. When you note that there are no new ideas being generated, say, “We’ll take two more comments and then decide.”
  7. Don’t allow the group to argue. Certainly create a context for all views to be heard, but don’t get into a debate. This is not a time to have winners and losers; you are seeking consensus and you are facilitating the exchange of ideas so that the best decision can be reached.

Dave Barry, in poking fun at the value of meetings said, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’”

Using the suggestions in this article,  in your next meeting you can prove the pundits wrong.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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