If your meetings are frustrating and aren’t getting the results you want, take a fresh look at how they work. Good meetings will achieve more and encourage people to come again.
First, ask yourself if a meeting is necessary. Do you need to solve problems, make decisions or have a meaningful discussion? If you want to share information, an email may be just as valuable. Once you know what you want to achieve, map out a structure that will help you get there.
Before the meeting
Unless it’s an open meeting, make a list of who will benefit from attending and invite only those people. Choose a venue where the attendees will be comfortable and welcome to help them participate fully in the discussion. Schedule your meetings at a convenient time for parents – or consider offering childcare or going online. List regular meetings on your school website, newsletter and social media with clear joining information, so no one is left out.
Following an agenda will help create structure and manage attendees’ expectations. Put agenda items in order of priority and highlight any you may not have time to discuss. Make sure you leave enough time for comments, ideas and questions. Help people plan their day by making it clear how long you expect the meeting to last – an hour is usually enough – and indicate if there will be an opportunity for socialising afterwards. Circulate the agenda along with any supporting documents.
TIP: Print your agenda and write notes next to each section about what you want to say and what you want to achieve.
During the meeting
Confident body language will help others react to what you’re saying more positively. Make eye contact and keep your arms at your sides. Keeping your voice steady and not speaking too fast will help you come across as confident and approachable.
Practise active listening. Demonstrate your interest in other people’s ideas and contributions by taking notes as they speak and asking questions.
Lead by example and avoid complaining; it makes for a bad atmosphere and isn’t productive. Encourage others to express their concerns at a different time, perhaps by email, and remember to deal with them. Direct the conversation towards another topic as soon as you can. If there’s a disagreement, stay calm and be patient. If a problem is escalating and you’re unsure what to do, stop and regroup another day when you’ve had a chance to think clearly.
If the conversation loses focus and becomes chat, redirect it according to the agenda.
- Start on time
- Welcome everyone and introduce anyone who’s not attended before
- Stick to your plan
- Encourage all attendees to contribute and ask questions
- Remember your goals
After the meeting
Send the minutes to all of the attendees and anyone else who you think might benefit from the information. However engaging you were, not everyone will have retained all the key points. The minutes will help them remember what they should do next and what decisions were made.
Ask people what they thought of the meeting. Was it helpful and well structured? Did it achieve what it set out to do? Offer anonymous feedback and use what people say to make constructive changes.
Tips for attendees
Prepare: Read the agenda and make notes
Sit straight: It will help you concentrate
Participate: Contribute ideas and suggestions
Think: Is what I have to say relevant?
Listen: Ask questions if you don’t understand.