How to Lead a Meeting (and Leave ‘em Wanting More)

Follow The Leader

Have you ever attended a meeting that meandered, led to more confusion, and ultimately led to another meeting to tie up the loose ends from the first, unsuccessful one?

Me, too.

Would you like to learn how to lead a meeting and leave the attendees wanting more? Of course you would!

Meetings Are Expensive

Years ago, I attended a weekly status meeting that lasted an hour, and there were 15 of us on the team. If our average hourly rate was $100 that meant each hour-long meeting cost $1500.

Let’s say your team of five is paid an average hourly rate of $100. This means an hour-long staff meeting costs $500. If you have weekly staff meetings, you’re looking at an annual cost of $26,000. Holy cow! 

Let’s take this further. If your organization has 90 similarly-sized and paid teams it is absorbing $2,340,000 in “meeting costs.” It takes a lot of revenue to recoup $2.34m no matter what kind of business you’re in.  Meetings can either be a waste of time (and energy!), or they can be investments in your organization’s success as they facilitate making valuable decisions, aligning teams, and even inspiring action. But how?

Make Meetings Worth the Investment

Step 1: Set a Goal. When you’re leading a meeting, are you clear on what you want to have when you all walk out of that room? If not, get clear on where you’re going—or you’ll never get there.

Kick off the meeting by greeting the attendees, and then say something as simple as,

“When we walk out of this room today, we’ll have a decision on how to proceed with next year’s marketing strategy”

or

“When we walk out of this room today, we’ll have identified five action items for improving operational efficiency.”

And then work toward that end goal.

Step 2: Get Curious. Ask open-ended questions. Encourage everyone to give their ideas, including the typically quiet team mates, who usually process things by thinking through them. They may need to be invited to speak up.

A safe way to do this is to say, “Maria, we haven’t heard from you yet. What are your thoughts on how we can improve operational efficiency?”

Step 3: Have Fun. Leverage your sense of humor whenever appropriate—it will help others relax, and it’s in these higher mood states when we are all most creative. Under stress, our brains slip into a fight- or-flight mode, and ironically that’s usually when we most need creativity.

When you, as the meeting leader, give yourself permission to have fun and be creative, you unconsciously give others permission to do the same. When combined with being fully present, it’s another way of being in concert that builds relationships and teams.

Step 4: Wrap it Up with a Bow. At the end of the meeting, state aloud the decisions you’ve made and the next steps. State aloud the action items, who owns them, and the due dates as you understood them. Ask the participants if you missed (or misunderstood) anything. Then thank them sincerely for their contributions—gratitude goes a long way

Step 5: Follow Up. Show your support for the decisions and action items by honoring your commitments, following through on the ones assigned to you, and checking in on the others.

Be Known As the Meeting Guru

By following these steps, you’ll create a world in which your meetings are known for getting being inclusive, drawing out the best ideas, sponsoring a few laughs, and, ultimately, getting results.

And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that kind of magic?

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Avatar for Amber Lineback

Amber Lineback

Amber will tell you that her passion is learning — in all its forms. “I believe it happens when we bump into something different,” she says, “Whether it is experiencing a different culture through travel or helping a team work through conflict. Growth is a life-long process, and there’s a wise saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I get a kick out of being the student as much as being the teacher.”