No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Effective Meetings Skills


This is the full report from the TrainingZONE online workshop led by Anne Walker on 11 May 2000. The workshop focused on Effective Meeting Skills:-

Anne Walker: Hello everyone: I'm Anne Walker, the facilitator for today's workshop. I'm the training specialist for Group Publishing in Loveland, Colorado. Today's topic is "Effective Meeting Skills". I'll cover: (1) How to get the most from meetings (2) How to keep focused on the key issues (3) How to deal with distractions (4) Tips for chairing effective meetings. Please introduce yourselves, and let me know what other issues you would like to cover, and we'll include these in the discussion. Thanks! Anne

Tim Pickles: Hi Anne - I'm just checking we're working OK. Still 15 minutes to go - check the names to the right to see when others join.

Anne Walker: Hello Joe: welcome! If you have any specific topics you'd like to see addressed today please let me know - thanks - Anne

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Hi Anne!

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : As you know lawyers constantly have meeting, so we're interested in two sorts of meeting -with clients and negotiating wiht others

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : PS Sorry about my abysmal typing

Anne Walker: I'm going to wait a couple more minutes to see who else joins, and then I'll start addressing the first topic - "getting the most" from meetings which involves proper planning - this should help with clients, and we'll see if "negotiating" can be addressed in the other topics.

Trevor Sherman: Good afternoon

Anne Walker: Hello Trevor - any topic of special interest? Please let me know - thanks - Anne

Trevor Sherman: Yes please Anne - facilitating on-line meetings (like you are doing now)

Robert Benson: Hello everyone - John Stokdyk and Gary Mackley-Smith of AccountingWEB fame hope to make it soon

Anne Walker: Hello Jacqueline and Robert - welcome - on - line meetings - good topic! I'll address that a little later - Anne

Trevor Sherman: Is that later in the 45 minutes or another day??

Anne Walker: Later in the 45 mins!!

Jacqueline Grimsley: Hello everyone

Trevor Sherman: Hi JG - yes we're still here

Anne Walker: OK - I'd like to start - if any of the common meeting problems apply to you - drifting off subject, poor preparation, questionable effectiveness - then I'd suggest meetings often don't have a clear objective. I know it's obvious but make sure everyone knows what's to be achieved at the end of the meeting. "To discuss the marketing plan" isn't very helpful - "to finalize activities, dates and actions for the 2001 product launch for widgets" is a bit more specific and lets you know what the meetins about.

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : So a set agenda is essential?

Trevor Sherman: More like "expected outcomes"

Anne Walker: Yes, but sometimes the agenda just lists topics - not outcomes. So you might have a long discussion - but no set actions are decided.

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Do you recommend setting time limits for discussing items?

Anne Walker: Exactly Trevor! that way you can focus on getting back to the objective when people get off the point. Yes Joe - even if you get it wrong it help focus on the issues at hand. You can say "should we continue on this point" or move onAnne

Trevor Sherman: Anne - I think it helps when items on the agenda have amn "owner" - what do you think?

Anne Walker: Any questions on agenda topics and outcomes - or does this seem a little obvious? Anne

Anne Walker: Trevor - in the agenda I use we have an "action item matrix" it identifies preparation to be done by the item leader and lets team memabers know if it's a discussion item, a problem solving item etc in advance, so everyone can be prepared. An "owner" is great, because it allocates responsibility. Anne (NB. See foot of page for details of how to obtain the Action Item Matrix)

Anne Walker: I can e-mail a draft Action Item Matrix to anyone who's interested. It also makes taking minutes fast, because you record decisions and actions as you go through the meeting. Anne

Trevor Sherman: The preparation is key too. To avoid wasting time. Calculate the cost of 6 senior managers in a meeting. How many £ per hour?

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : I like minutes that just say who is to do what and by when and what is decided!!!

Jacqueline Grimsley: Yes, I'd like the Action Item Matrix, please

Anne Walker: Trevor's point is good - don't invite people to meetings who don't need to be there. Let them know the outcomes afterwards if their input isn't really necessary. Anne

Graeme Edwards: Yes I agree. Make sure they're straight to the point, no fussing around.

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Can Ihave it too please?

steve thacker: in my experience it is best to have only people there who are going to do things. - If someone hasn't got an action at the end of the meeting, they should not have been there !

Trevor Sherman: Sorry about the delay - 6 manager for 1 hour = £500.

Anne Walker: Yes to requests - also on the AIM it has a time allocation for each agenda item. This really helps you determine what should be in the meeting. If you've got 10 items then identifying the necessary time may make you think about taking some items off the agenda to be decided individually or by another committe so you don't waste staff time.

Graeme Edwards: It is possible to place too much emphasis on matrix's/structures etc. Just advise topic, time, invitees, venue, actions, timescales etc. and follow up meeting.

Trevor Sherman: Anne - how do you avoid losing items 8, 9 & 10 on the agenda through overrun? (Don't tell me - run the meeting backwards)

Graeme Edwards: have a good chairman

Graeme Edwards: chairperson, oops

steve thacker: don't digress

Anne Walker: Also - list most important items first. If 8,9,10 are important set another meeting (try putting items first that involve most people, then staff can attend for the early items) Anne Then

steve thacker: and don't allow members to digress

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : And keep the time strict

Anne Walker: If people digress, you can always go back to the item objective "is this helping us achieve ...." If the objective's clear then you can usually get back to the topic. Anne

steve thacker: this is the beauty of a good chair

Anne Walker: Joe's right - if the meeting costs $500, starting it 12 minutes late wastes $100 (pounds to you over the water). Anne

Anne Walker: What do you think makes an effective chair? I think it's a good balance of people vs task skills - any other comments? - Anne

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Ones who keep the discussion on topic are would be picky to ask for more

Graeme Edwards: I believe in getting attendees to relax, speak open and honestly.

Trevor Sherman: Effective chair - Involving people - getting the most out of them - drawing people out - summarising - controlling

steve thacker: a good chair must be able to provide a balanced view, and try to be impartial, and they need to be effecitve communicators to allow all mem bers to contribute, - all in the time frame

Trevor Sherman: Ineffective chair - does all the talking, has all the opinions

steve thacker: trevor, thats a dictator !

Trevor Sherman: Not me Steve!

steve thacker: sorry, i didn't mean it that way !

Anne Walker: Unfortunately, it's sometimes the boss! If you are in charge, not stating your opinion first allows others to state their views without having to disagree with you. Anne

Trevor Sherman: But don't you find them chairing meetings in some organizations (the "z" was for Anne!)

Trevor Sherman: Anne (or anyone) - care to differentiate between facilitating and chairing?

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Nice to see you have a Webster's Collegiate. Trevor!

steve thacker: how can you be effective in meetings where there are many different views and undiplomatic/difficult attendees ?

Anne Walker: Yes, but it isn't necessarily the best idea. A good idea if this is happening is to evaluate the meeting effectiveness using some simple questionnaire type form - there are some excellent examples in a couple of books I've got. Staff can feed back if the meeting was ineffective because of a controlling chair (anonymously of course). Anne

Trevor Sherman: I only use Websters for crosswords Joe

Graeme Edwards: Who's controlling this meeting?!!!

steve thacker: normally a peer ? - not usually a line manager/higher employee

Anne Walker: Good question from Steve. If it's a regular team - then a discussion of a team "contract" for what's ok helps - or taking the difficult person aside afterwards can work. Also, trying alternative ways of reaching decisions (green dot, yellow dot, red dot) which allows you to have several votes on different ideas can help. Flip chart all ideas, everyone votes with their dots, until there is a "green dot" winner. Anne

Stephanie Phillips: I've been to meetings where ideas have been `parked' to be discussed later - unfortunately later didn't always arrive!

Anne Walker: You can change who's controlling it - or let different team members have different agenda items to avoid an overcontrolling chair.

steve thacker: we have found that a rotating chair works well in a team situation, but doesn't always encourage effective meetings - ie. getting anything done

Anne Walker: Parking items allows you to decide what to do with them at the end of the meeting - maybe that meeting wasn't the right place for discussion - maybe a smaller/shorter team can address that issue at another time. But it's better than getting off the poing. Anne

Anne Walker: Oops - point!

Anne Walker: If you find things don't get done make sure you review agreed actions at the end of the meeting and set deadlines. These can be reviewed first at the next meeting. Anne

Anne Walker: Going back to "not getting anything done" go back to "was the outcome of the meeting agreed first". If it wasn't clear what was meant to be achieved, the group may not get there. (Sorry to be repetitive.) Anen

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Is there an optimum number for meetings Anne

steve thacker: this is a problem that you can have with a monthly 'update' meeting, they get a bit stale - don't you think. ? and are not always the best use of staff time

Anne Walker: To address On-line meetings - what sort of difficulties have you had with these? I didn't want to forget this one - AW

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Steve, I've always hated meetings which don't have a specific purpose

steve thacker: Joe, sadly, for me, they are a way of life in Education !

Trevor Sherman: On-line meetings: Anne the lack of synchronising of comment/response is one thing (thread!)

Anne Walker: Steve - sometimes a stand-up meeting would do. Don't have a meeting unless you need it - if part of the purpose is to touch-base, try having lunch instead! Better team building.

John Stokdyk: Seconded Trevor!

steve thacker: Anne, I think that netmeetings can be a bit hard as there is no real interaction - etiquette !

Anne Walker: Yes! However, the speed of this is great - I teach on on-line course at a local Uni and the bulletin board is very slow. It would be nice to combine "headings" like a bulletin board with this speed.

Trevor Sherman: To facilitate an online meeting I would have a bank of prepared text to drop in at intervals - is this what you do Anne?

steve thacker: impersonal, much like emails, and things can be taken out of context !

Anne Walker: I tried it! However this doesn't cut and paste from Word! Believe me, I have a cheats list of prepared answers, which I can't use! Anne

John Stokdyk: The other difficulty with online meetings is that people come and go willy nilly (apologies) and you miss on the visual cues. I could be jumping up and down with excitement and a point to make, but other people are following different conversational avenues. When you get towards the end, there is trouble know when it's over. You sit and stare at the screen wondering whether someone is about to come back with a killer point. YOu can't shuffle papers and move back in your seat so people know you've got to run.

Trevor Sherman: Very honest Anne. Have you used MS NetMeeting and Whitboards?

John Stokdyk: Cut and paste - Anne, use the old command keys, CTRL and C simultaneously to copy, CTRL+V to paste. It works for me!

Anne Walker: On line is great for some topics, but nothing too personal, when strong feelings occur. A conference call would be better. Trevor - no we're using educational software where I work. Anne

Trevor Sherman: How long to type that one John? Good point about the lack of emotional involvement. Try a private chat with someone. Joe showed me how

Joe Reevy (LawZONE : Not that we're emotionally invoilved!

steve thacker: yes, but a private chat, somehow defeats the purpose of a meeting, doesn't it ?

Anne Walker: "a team activity where select people gather to perform work that requires group effort.? (from Steve Kaye: ?The Manager?s Pocket Guide to Effective Meetings?, HRD press) Yes it does. Funnily enough, Edit and Paste doesn't. Don't know why, but thanks for the tip. Anne

Trevor Sherman: I facilitated a 5 way telephone meeting for 1 hr 45mins last week. It's fun - and I don't have to drive 2.5 hours to be at the office

Trevor Sherman: Of course not Joe

Anne Walker: Do you want to discuss other issues in the remaining time? Have I address the points you are interested in? Anne

steve thacker: this has been my first meeting in here and I think it was a good insight, thanks !

Trevor Sherman: Anne - Someone touched earlier on "troublesome" people in meetings. Tips & techniques?

steve thacker: it was me ? - the issue, not the person !

Anne Walker: The chair can suggest a break - and discuss the issue with the person in terms of "it's not helping us meet our objective". Or it may be that the person is really upset about something - giving them a break to cool down might help. If it's persistent behaviour, phrase feedback in terms of the specific behaviour - ie your input if very valuable, but we need to hear all views. Or specifically say, thanks for your input - "I'd like to hear from everyone else". Depends on the issue - but deal with it because if you don't everyone else in the meeting gets irritated. Anne

Anne Walker: Any other tried and tested ideas from participants? Anne

Trevor Sherman: Thanks Anne - good stuff. Those sort of people come as part of the deal. They can disrupt others, so I prefer to isolate them and find out their "problem" off-line from the meeting

Anne Walker: Thanks Trevor, and to everyone for participating - if we have no further comments, I'll sign off and let you go for a cup of tea, while I have a cup of coffee. Thanks again for taking part, I'll send Jacqueline and Joe the AIM. Anne


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!