Monday, April 13, 2015

Conducting a Meeting | How to Conduct a Meeting

Conducting a Meeting | How to Conduct a Meeting
The purpose of a meeting is to share information and experience, to discuss problems and discover their solutions, or to generate confidence, enthusiasm and a positive attitude among the members of group for the realization of organizational goals. When you are asked to conduct a meeting, carefully plan it.

Go through the agenda carefully and prepare a discussion plan. Determine the time you would devote to each item and note down the points you would like to cover. Also visualize the kind of questions likely to be asked and their possible answers. If you have to refer to certain materials, get them ready.

You may open the meeting with a remark such as 'Shall we begin?' Give a brief introduction and to generate discussion ask an opening question and wait for a reply. Remember that the surest way to get a clear answer is to ask a clear question. If there is no immediate response, do not get impatient. The period of silence is generally not as long as you think it is. When opinions are expressed, acknowledge them with a nod, a smile or with non-committal remarks such as 'That's one idea,' 'That is one way of approaching it,' 'Yes, the point merits consideration,' 'That's one suggestion,' 'I am glad that you brought that out.' You should not be tempted to express your agreement immediately. Maintain a neutral reserve even if you like the idea or suggestion.

If the discussion does not develop, you may rephrase the question or break it into smaller components. Sometimes you may direct a question to an individual and invite others to offer comments on the views expressed by him. But this device should not be used frequently because then members may not come forward unless asked to.

Once the discussion starts, control it tactfully and lead it in the desired direction. But do not rush the group to find a solution. Let the meeting the problem-centered instead of solution minded. Ensure that no speaker is interrupted and that each gets a fair chance to speak. After each member has had his say, it will be easier for the group to arrive at a solution. Try to discourage debate among members as this may lead to an exchange of heated remarks. Watch out for the danger signals and give a turn to the discussion by emphasizing the areas of agreement.

Some members may have a 'private agenda'—something that they personally want to achieve. Try to bring it to the surface and also to uncover ulterior motives and latent hostilities. Diversity of attitudes is to be expected and should not dismay you. The best thing for you will be not to take sides but to intervene effectively when the situation demands. Keeping in view what you wish to achieve, encourage a member to come out with his views to set off the arguments put forward by another.

The discussion at times may tend to stray from the main objective. To bring it back on the track, you may ask a follow up question, the answer to which will lead back to the topic. On occasions you may have to tell the group in a polite yet straightforward manner that the discussion has gone astray. 

During the course of discussion questions may be directed to you. If you do not want to answer them straight away, redirect them to the whole group or request an individual to answer. You may also ask the questioner himself to make an attempt to answer. Often the questioner knows the answer, he simply wants confirmation.

Before you close the meeting, give a brief review of the discussion and summarize the decision taken. Members should leave the meeting with a feeling that something concrete has been achieved. This is the only test of a good meeting.

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