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Tip 2: Call a meeting only for the right reasons.

When you call a meeting, make it significant and be prepared. In a client situation, you may have been working for months on a deal that will either thrive or nosedive based on a single meeting. The higher you go in your own organization, the more expectations others have for your abilities to conduct yourself in a meeting—either as a participant or as a leader. Take things seriously. Call a meeting to

  • Present information to a lot of people quickly without writing it.
  • Get immediate input from others.
  • Gain “buy-in” from the team and provide a setting in which some members can influence others positively.
  • Motivate and energize the group about the idea.

Skip the meeting if

  • You have nothing special to discuss.
  • You don’t need others’ input.
  • Your mind is already made up about what you plan to do.
  • Getting others involved would only complicate your plan.

These are even worse reasons to meet: Meeting as a substitute for work. Rubber-stamping a decision. Complaining. Demonstrating the power to make everybody show up. Because joy and misery love company, sorting out true motivations may require some soul searching.

Tip 3: Set an agenda.

Some people think that agendas lend too much structure to a meeting, that people can’t be spontaneous when there is an agenda, or that the atmosphere will be too formal. Nonsense. That’s like saying that if you plan for a vacation by packing the right clothes, arranging for transportation, and deciding on a destination, you can’t relax and be spontaneous along the way.

Tip 4: Make your agenda informative.

Use questions, not topics. Summarize the issue at hand in a succinct question. Examples: “Should we hold the convention in St. Louis or in Portland?” (Not: “Convention Location.”) “What ideas do you have for our annual fund-raising drive?” (Not: “Annual Fund-raising Drive.”) “Should we upgrade our equipment?” (Not: “Outdated Equipment.”) “How can we use YouTube more effectively to engage prospects?” (Not: “Using Social Media Tools.”) A question that is well formed reduces your meeting time by a margin of 50 percent.

Then let the group know what you expect on each issue—“for discussion only,” “for their information only,” “to collect your data,” or “for decision.” Whether you stay right with the agenda or take a few minutes’ detour, having an agenda will give others a little peace of mind that the meeting is going somewhere—and that it will end.

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