Keep it moving: 7 ways to expedite your meeting

Encourage meeting attendees to be active, engaged participants

For a meeting to succeed, participants need to cut through the noise and get to the heart of the issues at hand, Nicole Matos writes for Chronicle Vitae.

Matos is an associate professor of English at the College of DuPage.

According to Matos, only one good kind of meeting exists: "the kind where something actually gets done." And the only way to accomplish that goal is to drive the conversation toward a decisive end. 

Matos shares the following strategies that academic leaders "can use to keep meetings moving and prevent them from turning flabby":

1: Trim the agenda

For Matos, the ideal meeting would include precisely one agenda item. When attendees learn there won't be time to cover every item on an extensive list, "a sort of unconscious mental deferment takes over," Matos says, which will only lead to yet another meeting. Determine the No. 1 goal of the meeting upfront and put all of your energy toward getting it done.

Related: Five simple tips for running great meetings

2: Lay out a specific proposal

Feel free to skip the brainstorming phrase and open a meeting with a specific proposal. That way, you can get the ball rolling by determining any objections to the plan.

3: Put decisions in writing

Don't wait hours or days after a meeting has occurred to send out minutes to meeting attendees. Document decisions in real-time by projecting them onto a whiteboard or blackboard. Explicitly point out when a decision has been reached and when you write it down.

4: Refrain from backtracking

When participants second-guess decisions that have already been established by the group, everyone gets thrown off track. Gently cut participants off by letting them know that decisions can always be reassessed in the future, but for now, the momentum needs to be maintained.

5: Call on people to participate

It's easy for the loudest person to dominate a meeting, but you can regain composure by seeking the input of some of your more restrained attendees. If two assertive attendees are fighting it out, call on a third person who can provide another perspective to push past the deadlocked conversation.

6: Assign tasks

According to Matos, the most successful meetings are those in which everyone has a certain responsibility. Spur attendees to action by assigning them meaningful tasks that will lead to real action.

7: Pile on the praise

You expect a lot out of your attendees, and in return, you should be providing them with your utmost respect. Highlight your team's successes and note behaviors you hope to see repeated.

"More than anything, people want meetings to matter, and they want recognition that their input matters, as well," Matos says. "Keeping meetings moving is about celebrating the parts that add up to a positive whole, and finding ways to stage and to scaffold progress and change" (Matos, Chronicle Vitae, 4/7/16).

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