Finally, it’s your turn at the helm doing a partner review or facilitating an important meeting. Prove yourself in front of your peers and partners, and you’ve proved yourself full stop. Allow yourself to be the ringmaster in a cacophony of bad or no decision making, however, and it’s as though you drilled a hole in the hull of the company ship yourself. The first step is to put the meeting date in your diary far enough in advance to be able to adequately prepare.
1. Before the meeting
Do you (and everyone else) understand why the meeting is being held in the first place? Are all of the key participants or decision makers invited or included? Prepare and distribute a concise agenda, complete with brief explanations, if required. Distribute any pertinent reports and material well in advance. This is only good manners. If you have any personal drivers for outcomes, put them to the back of your mind. As the facilitator of the meeting, you are directing the meeting, not imposing your upfront presence upon it.
2. On the day
Arrive early and make sure everything is ready and working. You’ll look like an idiot if hardware (or online system) is not available or working properly. If using PowerPoint take a presenter remote control and a backup on a USB key. Ensure that someone is taking meeting minutes. When the meeting has started and the agenda is underway, stick to it. If you allow a well prepared agenda to slip away, only to create yet another meeting, you’ll look like a time waster. You should also keep an eye on the clock, for exactly the same reason.
3. Listen, think and then speak
A good facilitator uses his personality, not his authority. You are there to keep the room “connected”. If you get the feeling someone’s not coming forward on an issue, encourage that person to contribute. It could be that the person simply agrees with the discussion or you could discover he’s sitting on an alternative strategy that only requires a few minutes’ open discussion to take real form. Remember you are also there to listen, which is often easier said than done, as instinct is to actively contribute or demonstrate knowledge of the subject.
4. Deal with time-wasters
If someone’s deviating wildly from the topic at hand, guide him or her right back to it. If it looks like there’s an argument brewing, use any skills you have to strip the issue back to its bare essentials. A good device to defuse a flare up can be to repeat the item and objective. Confrontation wastes time, so manage it. If someone in the room tends towards verbosity, politely move them forward. “Good point, Bob. (a nod of the head, a quick glance around the room) Now let’s move on to the next item”.
5. Closing on time
It is equally important to end the meeting on time as it is to start it on time. You have kept one eye on your watch and now it’s time for a summary from the minutes. Ensure there is no confusion about what was discussed and the decisions the participants have arrived at before everyone leaves.
6. Post meeting actions
Review, proof and distribute the meeting minutes, with assigned actions within 24 hours. People get busy with other activities and if you want something to happen, you have to keep the momentum up to get the desired outcomes.