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How to run a meeting

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article a few weeks ago, How to Run a Meeting by Gary A. Olson, about the obvious topic. The article is written with an eye toward academic meetings, but it applies equally well to other meetings.

Take this as an example:

Some committee chairs will insist on meeting even when there is no business to conduct. That often happens when a committee has a standing meeting time. I have even known chairs who began meetings by announcing, "We really don't have anything to do today, but let's touch base with one another." Obviously, such a practice shows a real lack of respect for people's time.
This is the equivalent of saying "We don't have any topics for this meeting, but my calendar has us in this room for an hour, so we may as well fill the time." How often have you been a meeting like this? Meetings like that can really take the life out of every participant. Nothing gets done, and people dread attending the next meeting.

Instead, Olson advises these tips to run meetings more efficiently:

  • Cancel a meeting if you have a light agenda. Better the next meeting have a full agenda than to ask people to meet with little to do.
  • Share the agenda - before the meeting, if possible.
  • Set time limits for topics, and monitor the time.
  • Share supporting documents in advance so attendees are prepared to discuss them.
  • Begin on time, not 10 minutes late.
  • Make sure the purpose and objectives of the meeting are clear.
  • Monitor participation and behavior.
  • Use email for minor topics, instead of meeting time.
  • Be efficient, but be fair. Make sure everyone has a chance to participate.