There’s nothing more annoying than a meeting that goes on and on. Whether you’re getting ready for a weekly team meeting or convening a larger group to discuss your company's or department’s strategy, as a manager it’s your job to make sure people don’t go off on tangents or hog speaking time. But how can you keep people focused without squashing their creativity?
Make the Purpose Clear
You can head off a lot of problems by stating the reason for getting together right up front. Create and send an agenda and any background materials ahead of time. This way, everyone understands the objective of the meeting and the necessary preparation. The agenda will also act as a schedule for the meeting and outline all of the topics that must be addressed. Consider including a list of things that won’t be discussed in the meeting as well.
Control the Meeting Size
Meetings can get out of control if there are too many people in the room. Only include those who are critical to the meeting topic and can provide enough diversity of opinion.
Manage the Ramblers
It can be tough to cut off someone who is a rambler or speaking off topic. However, it's sometimes necessary to do so. For someone who is prone to rambling, talk with him/her ahead of time or during a meeting break. Ask that s/he keep comments to a minimum to allow others to be heard.
Consider scheduling meetings that end either at lunch time or at the end of the work day. You'll be surprised how few people will ramble when they want the meeting to finish on time.
End the Meeting Well
End on the right note to set the stage for the work to continue. Identify what you see as the next steps, who should take responsibility for them, and what that time frame will be. Record all of the points discussed and the open questions to be answered. Then, send out a meeting summary email so that everyone is on the same page.
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