We will now turn our focus to preparing for, and conducting a team meeting. Initially you may find running a meeting a bit intimidating, especially if you have never done so before. With a little preparation, however, getting ready for and conducting a meeting is a fairly straightforward process.
First, you need to prepare for the meeting. Preparation can include such things as:
- Finding a time and place to meet;
- Developing and distributing an agenda;
- Gathering and preparing any supporting materials or documentation;
- Making plans for technology, if needed (such as PowerPoint, Skype)
- Making sure minutes (notes) from earlier meetings are available and accurate
- Announce what time the meeting will start and end. Do not leave it open-ended. You can always end early, but going long is rarely an option.
An agenda is simply a plan for the meeting. In more formal organizations, the concepts of Parliamentary Procedure are employed, quite commonly using Robert’s Rules of Order, but for purposes of this course just consider it a logical plan for the meeting.
The minutes of a meeting are the official record of what happened. For formal organizations such as businesses, corporations, non-profit organizations, or governmental entities, accurate minutes are extremely important. They are considered a legally binding record of the actions of that meeting, so that’s why there’s an “approve the minutes” step in most formal agendas. For small task groups, such formality is typically not needed.
For example, something simple like the following will work well for many small task groups:
- Review of what happened at the last meeting.
- Complete action on any items carried over from previous meetings.
- Address new items.
- Plan the next meeting.
Of course, the specific agenda you use will be up to the task, the group, and what is happening at the time. By distributing agendas ahead of time, you give members a chance to think and prepare themselves for the various items.
Second, when the meeting time arrives, it is typically the leader’s job to get things rolling. Some things to consider:
- Be a little early. Make sure the room is available and things are ready to go. Lateness should not become an acceptable group norm.
- Allow for small talk. Remember we are people first and workers second. A few minutes of small talk, jokes, and stories can settle everyone down, reaffirm the cohesiveness of the group, and create a comfortable environment.
- Once you feel the group has had enough time for small talk, gently move them into the task dimension with something like, “Shall we get started?” It is far easier to gently lead group members than to push them aggressively.
- Once you have started into the task, group discussion will cycle back and forth between task and social dimension. While you do not want the group to stay in the social dimension, some socializing may help reduce tension and give people time to gather their thoughts.
- Think of yourself as more of an observer and facilitator than participant. Place the focus more on process and procedure, and let the group members carry the bulk of conversation.
- Listen and summarize. When you can tell the conversation has peaked on a given topic, summarize what has been discussed and gently move the group on to the next step. You do not want to cut off discussion too early, nor do you want to let it dwindle.
- Defer to the group. Make sure you are getting the group to decide on issues and items, and you are not just guiding them to what you want. If they feel a sense of ownership of the action of the group, cohesiveness and commitment increases.
- Plan the next meeting. As long as you have your members there, set a time for the next meeting. It is far easier to do it with those in the room than attempting to work it out via text or email.
- End on time. We have a sense of how long something is supposed to last, and if you try to run overtime, members will tune out. Also, if you regularly run overtime, attendance will likely drop as members become frustrated.