Setting the tone of a conversation. I remember years ago my grandfather telling me always walk in, smile, extend your hand and greet the people you are meeting with warmly. I used to think that was simply him being a business person. But in the end not only was he right he was on to something.
The nicer you start a meeting the better the meeting will be. We are not talking about being overly excited to start the meeting. This is a cheering section for a high school football team. Rather you start the meeting with an air of positive.
How can you do that? First off no matter how many people are there you can never start a meeting early. If however the room is full early don’t prepare your slides and be heads down in the room – talk to the early arrivers. Normally they are there either because this meeting fit perfectly into their day and they had space between meetings or better they are actually interested in what may come of this meeting.
- So start on time. Exactly on time.
- Never catch people up. People who arrive late and stop the meeting are in charge. No matter what or how they act later they assume they are the most important person in the room.
- Send around notes after the meeting.
- If giant rat holes open up during the meeting, acknowledge them and move them to the we need a meeting to discuss this taxi queue. Not a parking lot where ideas go to die but a queue for a taxi – quickly note who in the current meeting wants to be in the queue for the sidebar meeting. Don’t invite everyone as not everyone is interested.
- Consider the meeting beginning to end to be a balloon animal. If you are careful and pay attention to details in the end the balloon animal will look like what you intended it to. If you apply to much pressure or twist the meeting from side to side it will pop. Be gentle, be firm and keep heading towards the goal.
- Have an agenda for every meeting, and have a goal.
- Unless it’s a brainstorming meeting, then don’t have a goal or an agenda but announce it in the beginning as a brainstorming meeting.
I wrote about running good meetings now more than 5 years ago in my book Transitional Services. I talked about the concepts above in the book. They haven’t really changed since my grandfather introduced them to me more than 40 years ago. I’ve added a few minor tweaks and changes but for the most part running good meetings doesn’t change.
In the end good meetings empower people and don’t create side meetings where people run around trying to fix what was broken in the meeting or worse gossip about how bad someone is.