Q: Is there a trick to running a good meeting?
A: There are a number of things that make meetings work:
Call meetings only when getting together is really needed, and be mindful of different time zones when setting up a cross-office or transnational meeting. If technology is involved, have it tested in advance and make it clear when, where, and how people are to access the meeting.
Have a written agenda suitable to the time frame for the meeting and let attendees have it, in advance, as often as possible. Start and end the meeting on time. Consider asking one of the attendees to take notes for you.
Put matters in context, then speak as little as possible but listen intently, making sure no one dominates the floor and that the conversation stays relevant and collegial. Make sure everyone can hear what is said, staying particularly mindful of those participating remotely.
Keep things moving, being inclusive of varying viewpoints without losing focus or belaboring matters. Table important but lengthy new matters that arise for a follow on meeting, or have people send you or circulate for further consideration written comments, when appropriate.
Find or seek consensus when possible. Make hard decisions when called for to resolve agenda items, and communicate your conclusions concisely but not curtly.
Sum up, identifying and delegating action items and indicating what you will do, as next steps.
Set a date and time for the next meeting, if needed, while the participants are present. Afterward, review the notes taken, clarify or amend them, and provide them promptly to attendees, if appropriate, or file them carefully for future use.
Are these really tricks? No, but if you use them, provide food and/or beverage in each participating locale when you can, and use professionally appropriate humor to enliven the discussion and keep people’s attention…they may even think it’s a treat to attend your meetings.