The facility can impact the climate of your meeting, which in turn impacts the level of success you have. Consider all the items that are important to you as a meeting participant, and assume they are important to others as well. Consider the size of the room, the acoustics, the ventilation, the lighting, and pick your site accordingly. People will rarely comment on the comfort of the room, but believe me, they will complain if it is not right. And they will complain while the meeting is going on, sotto voce. It will detract from your success.
Pick a time that doesn’t predictably disrupt people’s schedules. For example, you might steer away from 9 a.m. on Monday mornings, as well as any time after 3 p.m. on Friday afternoons. Also, keep in mind that the first hour or so after lunch, half of people’s brains are in their stomach while they digest their food. And while a brain is in the stomach, it doesn’t think very well.
If the meeting will occur during a conference that includes many social events, don’t pick a time that’s too close to the banquet luncheon, or might bleed into the trade show cocktail hour. Participants will have their minds on the party, not the issue at hand.
An effective way of picking a starting time is to start with the end time. Determine when your meeting has to be over, how long it will be, and from that calculate the starting time. That will help you control the length of the meeting and demonstrate your respect for the participants’ other commitments.
Once the time is scheduled, make sure you abide by it. In your announcement, state that the meeting will start on time and end on time. And then, do your part. Start on the minute. It doesn’t matter how many attendees are missing. Don’t punish the punctual. Begin.
Do yourself a favor, a BIG favor! If it’s a longer meeting—more than an hour—allocate time periods for each subject to be covered. Appoint a timekeeper. Introduce that person to the group and announce, “The timekeeper will notify us all when we get to the halfway point of each segment. He will also signal when there is only a half hour remaining, and fifteen minutes remaining.”
Now, from the beginning, everyone will be aware that you understand the importance of time. This makes them confident the meeting won’t drag on or run over. It also encourages the participants to be time-conscious; most will cooperate with you to move the agenda in line with the timing guidelines.
At the fifteen-minute point, bring the discussion to a close, as you’ve promised. Then, end the meeting like a professional. Nothing is so impressive as a meeting that is run well, accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish, and ends on time.
That doesn’t mean that you should let time itself end the meeting. There is nothing worse than the meeting leader who has stated that the meeting will end at noon. The magic hour arrives. The meeting is in full swing, but our noble leader looks at his watch and says, “Oh my goodness, it’s 12 o’clock. OK. Thanks everyone. I’ll get back to you.”
He stands up and shuffles papers. Everyone else stands and does the same. People begin to leave. There is a feeling of emptiness in the room. The participants are looking for a wrap up: agreements reached, next steps, a word of gratitude for the hard thinking that has taken place, a commitment to get back to them, something.
Ending on time is important. As a matter of fact, it’s very important, because it reeks of professionalism. But a meeting should never end without these four things:
A statement of heartfelt gratitude by the leader
A summary of what has been accomplished
Agreement on “next steps” and who’s responsible
An indication of what happens next
If you work at it, you can run the meeting so well your participants will applaud!