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Language of Meetings
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Wasting one’s time in a meeting can be one of the most fruitless tasks in a busy working day. However, if you fine-tune your ability to run a meeting, there is no reason why meetings cannot be highly productive. In this unit you can learn how to conduct your meetings and make them both useful and enjoyable.


Define the objectives of the meeting: Only hold a meeting if you are quite clear about its objective. A clear notion of what is going to be accomplished is the foundation upon which everything else is based. 


Develop an agenda with key participants: Once the objectives are identified. The issues that are to be discussed should be sequenced in a formal agenda so that the topics that are most important appear at the beginning of the meeting. This increases the chances that the most relevant issues will be considered.


Distribute the agenda before the meeting: Publishing the agenda well in advance of the meeting along with any supporting documents will allow participants to review and prepare for the meeting. Keeping the participants informed about the pending meeting increases their sense of responsibility and helps them to be aware of its purposes.


Running the Meeting
Start on time: It is very annoying for attendees to have to wait for other participants before the meeting can begin. Starting on time, even with a very few number of people, sets a precedent and suggests that all members should be punctual.

Review the agenda and set priorities: Often times, agenda items may need to be amended, removed, mixed, reordered, or added. This review gives the group members one more chance to take responsibility for the meeting.

Stick to the agenda: Common problems occur when the chairman allows the participants to explore new topics before completing the established agenda items. Keep the discussion on track. If someone is going off the agenda or is speaking too long, pull him or her back in.

Encourage participation: Encourage active participation from all meeting attendees and prevent a subset of the group from dominating the conversation. Ensure that the meeting environment is one in which all attendees feel comfortable voicing their opinion and sharing comments and thoughts.


Be an Active Listener: Be an active listener to comments and feedback and facilitate ongoing dialogue among participants. Focus your attention solely on the speaker and then summarize the speaker's points in the listener's own words before moving on. This process helps the speakers confirm that the audience has understood their message.


Assign responsibilities and establish deadlines for task accomplishment: Decisions that call for tasks that are to be performed, either during or after the meeting, require that members be assigned to carry them out within established deadlines. This does not only promote task accomplishment but also provides a clear sign to all the participants that decisions made at meetings will be pursued. Nothing will motivate group members other than seeing that things are done perfectly.


Summarize agreements reached: Wrap-up each agenda item by summarizing any conclusions out loud. Then move on when no one objects or everyone agrees. This will provide a sense of completion for the participants and will increase the potential that group members will leave in agreement about what occurred.


Close the meeting at or before the agreed-on time: a chairman who asks participants to stay longer to complete a critical agenda item may be perceived as being insensitive to others. It usually is better to end on time or even a few minutes earlier. Attendees will appreciate the chairman’s concern about their other commitments. 


Keep a written record: Complete and accurate recorded minutes are important as they provide the attendees and the chairman with the ability to recall decisions that were made at the meeting as well as the responsibilities that were assigned. 


Follow up
Following up on a meeting is as important as conducting it. It translates the decisions made at a meeting into tangible results. This includes the development of policy statements, the design of new procedures, and the collection of information. If the follow-up is adequate, succeeding meetings will be viewed positively. If the follow-up is insufficient, subsequent meetings may not be anticipated enthusiastically.


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