As my career has progressed I have found myself leading more meetings. While I have attended a lot of meetings in my life, and can certainly identify when a meeting is going well, it took me several years before I sat down to think through what factors contribute to a well-run meeting.
Admittedly, this is something I should have done earlier in my career, because unfortunately, I know I have led meetings that were not as productive as they could have been.
With this admission, I want to share some of the tips I have put together for leading a meeting:
- Create an agenda: If there were only one piece of advice I could give this would be it. Meeting attendees need to know what to expect, and you, as the leader, need a map. An agenda is your map to ensure everything is accomplished.
- Share the agenda before the meeting: This may not always feel necessary, but I have become a big believer in making sure people are not surprised. When people are surprised by the contents of a meeting, emotions can surface that can derail the goals. Instead, when individuals know what to expect, they can ask questions beforehand or come ready with clarifying questions.
- Go over the agenda: At the beginning of each meeting, quickly walk through the agenda. This gives everyone the opportunity to hear the same thing and reminds all attendees of what needs to be accomplished.
- Ask for questions before jumping into the first item on the agenda: While asking for questions before starting on specific agenda items may feel counterproductive, I have found if an individual has a question it is better to address it upfront. On the agenda, I typically include about five minutes for initial questions or discussion, especially around business that may have been addressed in a prior meeting. To stay focused, though, I let everyone in the meeting know I am going to try to keep the discussion to no more than five minutes.
- Create opportunities for discussion: Everyone wants to feel heard. This is an important part of leading meetings. It is your job as the meeting organizer to provide opportunities for others to share their ideas and opinions. In my meetings, I typically do not give time limits, but if you know a topic will have a lot of discussion, it may be worth asking that individuals keep their remarks to a certain time limit.
- Summarize discussions: As the meeting progresses, take notes and summarize what you heard from attendees at the end of the meeting. This can also be done at the end of the discussion for each agenda item. Providing a summary of the discussion lets meeting attendees know you heard them.
- End the meeting with action items: Based on discussions and what needs to be done, create a list of action items at the end of the meeting. This should be shared at the end of the meeting and placed in the meeting notes that are shared with all attendees. Make sure individuals know if an action item is assigned to them.
- Share the meeting notes after the meeting ends and ask for corrections: I have found it best to share the meeting notes as quickly as possible. Individuals’ memories are more clear soon after a meeting ends and they can provide insight to anything that may be missing from the notes.
Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent speaker on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her professional interests include information literacy, educational technology, library and information science education, teacher identity, and academic development. Please read Lauren’s other posts about skills for special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets
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