The following are guidelines you can follow when facilitating a conference call meeting. Many of the suggestions can also be applied to face-to-face meetings, as well. Right now, you may be doing all or some of them. Review each suggestion and incorporate the ones that would be helpful to you.
1. Select your participants If your meeting is a weekly scheduled meeting with the same participants, you will know who the attendees will be. If your meeting is a meeting that does not occur on a regular basis, you will want to make a list of the people who should attend. You may want to review your attendee list with others, just to make sure you haven’t left anyone out. It's a good idea to send out a copy of the agenda before the meeting. Some people like to do this in a memo with the meeting notice.
2. Developing Agendas Develop the agenda together with the key people involved in the meeting. Think about what you would like to achieve at the meeting and what activities need to occur to reach that outcome. The agenda should be organized, so that the activities are carried out during the meeting. Each participant should know what they need to do for the meeting early, so that they are prepared when they arrive. Next to main topics in your agenda, you may want to include how much time you want to allot for each one. Many times there are time constraints, and time needs to be managed well.
3. Opening a Meeting
Welcome participants as they join the meeting
You could begin by saying, “good morning, could you tell us your name?” or “hello, who has joined us?” You may also want to add a question such as, “How are you?” or “What’s the weather like in California today?” It is a good idea to have a few different greetings when welcoming participants.
Always try to start on time
This reminds people that you respect them and their time; it also lets people who are late know that you are serious about keeping your schedule.
Welcome members and thank them for coming. If you have a conference call, make sure an name the people in attendance so everyone knows who is participating. Clarify your role in the meeting.
Review the agenda at the beginning of each meeting, and give participants a chance to understand each topic, change them and accept them. When you conduct the meeting, it will be you who sets the tone and energy level for the participants.
4. Establish ground rules for Meetings It pays to have a few basic ground rules when conducting a meeting. The ground rules cultivate the basic ingredients needed for a successful meeting.
The four general ground rules are:
5. Time Management One of the most difficult tasks is time management; time seems to run out before tasks are completed. Therefore, the biggest challenge is to keep the momentum and the process moving.
Allot a certain amount of time for each topic in the agenda, and try to stay with it. If participants ramble on, it is up to you to encourage them to keep to their time limit and move on so others can give their input.
Summarize what you hear. After each item in the agenda is completed, summarize any conclusions out loud. Then, move on when no one disagrees, or when everyone agrees.
Watch what you say. Don’t take sides and be fair to everyone.
6. Closing Meetings Try to end meetings on time and on a positive note. For example:
I’d like to thank everyone for attending today’s meeting.
I think we got a lot done today; thanks for coming everyone.
Thank you all for coming, and I’ll talk to you soon.
At the end of every meeting, review the assignments each participant will need to accomplish for the next meeting. This will become the agenda, which you will review with each participant. For example: Next time we'll be talking about _________.
Set the next meeting day and time with the participants, if possible. If not possible, send a memo after the meeting to set a date. For example:
Is everyone available next Monday at 2pm for our next meeting?
I’ll be sending out an email with some possible days/times for our next meeting. As soon as I get a response from everyone, I’ll set it up.
The following are some general tips for handling people in a meeting:
Have a sense or humor.
Don’t be defensive
Use open-ended questions that require people to answer with more than a “yes” or “no”
Watch for signs that you should slow things down or speed things up
The following are tips on handling difficult people in meetings. Use interventions to handle difficult people. Interventions are techniques that you can use when you are confronted with disruption or problems during meeting.
Have the group decide what to do if someone keeps bringing up the same agenda or refuses to stick to the agenda.
Use the agenda and ground rules if someone keeps going off the agenda or has side conversations.
Be honest, say what’s going on if someone is trying to intimidate you, if you feel upset or undermined, or if you need to enlist the help of others in the meeting
Use humor if there is tension in the room, if people are resistant to being at the meeting, or if people are hesitant to participate because they’re shy.
Accept, deal, or defer if someone keeps expressing doubt that you are accomplishing anything, if they are bitter, if they disagree with every suggestion, or if they keep bringing up the same issues over and over. This means that you ACCEPT what they’re saying is true and don’t ignore it; DEAL with it right there by spending time on it, or DEFER it to the group for a decision about what to do.