Chairing the meeting is a leadership role. You must be ready and able to stand up and kick off the meeting without sounding nervous or uncomfortable. Your ability to communicate early in the meeting sets the tone of the meeting. Chairing a meeting effectively takes time to develop and requires practice.
Getting Off on the Right Foot
Opening your meeting effectively requires both a technique and a flow. The SIGNALS flow gives you an easy model to follow when opening the meeting. Here is a breakdown of the acronym:
Salutation is opening the meeting by welcoming and greeting your participants
Introduction is where you introduce who you are
Guest mentioned is where you introduce those attendees that are special guests
Need-to-know is a list of things like logistics, bathroom location, fire exits, general meeting format that is shared with the attendees
Agenda is where you discuss the purpose of the meeting and give a brief overview of the agenda
“Laws of the meeting” is where you discuss how the meeting is going to run. This includes policies on electronic devices, participation, and handling conflict.
Segue is the part of your introduction that links this part to the next topic, which in this case will be the role of the agenda.
Practicing your opening is the best way to become better at it. Over time, you will develop your own style, which will be comfortable to you. In any case, you will need to do it in order for you to learn it.
The Role of the Agenda
The agenda is an entity that plays a vital role like the chairperson or minute taker. Is should not be ignored, because if it is ignored, your meeting will experience time and participant management problems. Many times meetings run over or are cut short leaving topics unaddressed that were on the agenda. Consistently missing the agenda time and topics is a sign of poor meeting management. Here is a list of items the agenda accomplishes when handled as a role at the beginning of the meeting:
- The agenda communicates:
- Meeting topics
- Time allotment for each speaker
- The agenda provides focus by:
- Stating the meeting objectives clearly
- Outlining the meeting in increments of time
- Providing a checklist of things to accomplish in the meeting
- Allowing the attendees to see both the beginning and the end of the meeting, avoiding them becoming distracted when they are left wondering when this meeting end will
Here is a sample introduction of how to introduce the agenda as a role at the beginning of the meeting:
“The agenda today will help us meet today’s goal of deriving a good sales strategy. We have four presenters who are going to discuss how to present the new product, handle objections, gain commitment, and close the sale. The agenda will be our guide so we can stay on track and finish on time.”
Simply handing out the agenda does not communicate its role. You must introduce it like any other person that has a role in the meeting.
Using a Parking Lot
Using a parking lot in your meetings provides a place where topics that cannot be answered during the meeting are noted for follow up later. Sometimes the topics in the parking lot may be answered during the course of the meeting, but this is unusual. The parking lot is simple to implement. You could create a physical place by using piece of flip chart paper with sticky notes. Perhaps you prefer electronic documentation. You can collect parking lot topics onto a spreadsheet. Whatever you choose, you need to have a basic format. Here are some things to consider:
- Take a few moments to share with the attendees how the parking lot works
- Meant for topics that require follow up after the meeting
- Hold questions that can be answered later in the meeting
- Provide brief instruction on how to register a parking lot issue
- Provide the question or topic, name, and contact information, on a sticky note or verbally to the minute taker
- Chairperson will review parking lot topics to determine if the topic requires follow up after the meeting.
- Follow up communication will be sent to all the members of the meeting
The parking lot is helpful in managing your time. It gives you the ability to move off a topic that requires more research and time to develop. Remember to check the parking lot at the end of the meeting and always be sure to follow up when you say you will.