Have you been in those meetings where people ramble on and there seems to be no structure? Or a meeting where people are disinterested and gazing out of the window or at their phones? These meetings can seem like a real waste of time and it’s disheartening. I’ve sat in many meetings where I’ve thought I’d much rather be sitting at my desk, getting on with my work, and being constructive. This is always going to be preferable to listening to people complaining about things without coming up with ideas and solutions.
Tips for Communicating Effectively in Meetings
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Tip 1: Know What the Objectives of the Meeting Are
We’ve all sat in meetings that could have been an email. When people have heavy workloads and approaching deadlines, this can cause resentment. Communicating effectively is not just about getting people together in a meeting room. You could also use;
Collaboration tools like Slack
I’ve seen social media used to good effect to get the discussion going and generate feedback on key areas.
Tip 2: Set the Agenda
Who are you going to invite? Will they gain from attending and will they contribute? What will you gain from their attendance? I love it when you get the right people in the meeting, everyone is contributing ideas, and the room is buzzing.
Tip 3 -Decide on the Content of the Agenda
Next, you need to get the agenda right. Communicating more effectively in meetings involves giving people the information they need so they go in prepared. A good meeting agenda includes;
Start and end time, plus date and location;
What the meeting is covering and the aim of the meeting;
Timed agenda items and the person owning the item;
Links to reports etc to read prior to the meeting;
Links to any previous action points.
Tip 4: Keep Things on Track
And what about those meetings with the person who incessantly talks and no one can get a word in edgeways? I’ve seen this totally derail a meeting and prevent other ideas from being shared. As Chair, you need to politely interrupt the person, stating that you need to hear some other thoughts. Often the person is unaware of how they are coming across, and what’s needed is some friendly feedback after the meeting to resolve the issue for future meetings.
Tip 5: Update Attendees before the Meeting
Don’t forget to send the agenda out in advance- I’ve completely forgotten in the past when time has run away from me! Attendees are left totally unprepared and I’ve even seen them leave the meeting to get the relevant information!
Tip 6 – Be aware of the Impact of Your Leadership Style
The Chairperson’s leadership style is crucial. In the meeting, you are leading a temporary team to success. O’Neill (2000) shared what he saw effective leadership as:
Providing meaning and purpose;
Concentrating on the right things to do;
Creating the right environment to achieve the organisation’s goals;
Creating motivation to do things readily;
Facilitating responsibility across the team;
Empowerment to do what’s right;
Building people’s confidence;
Developing/embracing cultural change.
Meredith Belbin (1993) adds to what effective leadership is by suggesting:
Working on diversity;
Grow and nurture talent;
Consider your strengths as Chair and think about where you could develop to help you chair meetings. In turn, this will improve your general leadership too, so it’s a win: win.
Bonus Tips for Communicating Effectively in Meetings
Over time, it can be easy to slip into bad habits or develop a communication style that alienates people rather than engages them. Here are some bonus tips for being a great meeting Chair.
Whether you’re doing a 1:1 or chairing a team meeting, listening is so important. It’s a very underrated skill. Focus on learning to listen to other peoples’ points of view and make them feel like their contribution matters.
Use Visual Cues
The use of slides and other visual tools is a part of communicating effectively in meetings. Visuals tend to help people retain more information and stay engaged with the meeting content.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Keep a relaxed, open posture, and make eye contact when you’re speaking or listening. This helps everyone else stay relaxed and open to what you have to say.
Communicate ideas and points clearly. You don’t want anyone to leave the meeting feeling confused or in the dark. Allow time for questions or extra clarification if people need it.
Remember to Be Relaxed
Work meetings that feel overly formal or regimented aren’t conducive to creativity and innovation. Make people feel comfortable and relaxed by kicking off the meeting with some ice breakers.
Hopefully, you’ve found these tips for communicating more effectively in meetings helpful. You are probably already doing most of them, but it’s worth checking in with yourself from time to time. Be honest with yourself; how are your meetings going?
Good luck, and I hope your future meetings are a success!
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