Stop your SME slipping into the bad habits of the big boys!

Meet the way you want

Unless you’ve had a spot of training, or read a particularly good guide, knowing how to run internal meetings effectively and efficiently isn’t something that all SME managers necessarily excel at. Here are ten tips for maximising meetings.

1. Start on time: Don’t let timings slip, or allow people to waste the first ten minutes in chitchat. Set an example with your timekeeping, and insist that others match it.

2. Say what the aim is straightaway: Don’t spend time with preambles or recaps of the last meeting; let people know the purpose of this meeting ahead of saying anything else.

3. Come prepared: To make decisions you need the full picture. That means coming prepared with the full picture. Also be realistic about how long the meeting is likely to take when setting it. Some experts recommend shaving a percentage of time off the amount you think you need in order to accelerate efficiency.

4. Be clear who’s running the meeting: SMEs don’t always have the clear hierarchies of big companies, and a ‘flat’ organization – where everyone is at the same level – can lead to a tendency to run meetings ‘all together’. It’s better to have a leader or chair. This can even be a role that alternates between people.

5. Keep things moving: Be aware of the time, the agenda, and the pace at which things seem to be happening. If discussions are taking too long, interject with a summary and move onto the next point.

6. Involve everyone: Every group has it dynamics, and every meeting is likely to have people who want to speak more than others, or push their own agenda. Be aware of who is dominating, and find polite, constructive ways to remind them to let others speak. Equally, be aware of who is struggling to contribute, and directly ask them for their views.

7. Defuse confrontation: If things become difficult, you can either see the meeting as the best place to resolve an issue that needs resolving, or get the relevant parties to pause their problem for now and continue it at a later time and place. This is a judgment call, based mainly on how you anticipate things may play out.

8. Keep a record: You’d be surprised how we are all capable of interpreting a discussion in different ways. Someone should be responsible for capturing key conclusions in writing, and circulating them afterwards. This removes any ambiguities or disagreements later down the line.

9. Finish on time: Finish at the time you said you would. Be aware of when it is drawing close, and steer the session towards a wrap-up that will coincide. Creeping on timing can easily breed creeping on decisiveness and effectiveness.

10. Conclude with a clear statement of intent and expectations: Summarise what has been discussed and agreed, and what everyone needs to do as a consequence.

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