Keeping Meetings Productive

KEEPING MEETINGS PRODUCTIVE: Whether participants approve or disapprove of an idea, they shouldn't be penalized or given a raise. If you start criticizing people who disapprove, then you're only making your meetings less productive. Likewise, if you start handing out raises to everyone who agrees with you. This kind of behavior conditions participants to contributing only to win approval, rather than honestly contributing. Participants may focus more on developing ideas that meet approval, rather than generating their own creative ideas. To promote a free and creative sharing of ideas, the chairperson needs to exercise support of authority. Their role is to encourage participants to express their own ideas freely and fully.

TALKERS AND NON-TALKERS: Nearly every meeting has talkative members and quiet members. A quiet person may have an important contribution, but may feel intimated by the spontaneity of the meeting. Try to get past this by making eye contact with them while asking for a response from the group. Acknowledge a response from another member only if the quiet member gives no response. In effect, this will encourage him/her to answer the question without pinning them down.

KEEPING DOWN THE NOISE: A more difficult problem to rectify is quieting members who try to dominate meetings. Dominating people usually have immediate responses and go into endless detail if given the opportunity, while sometimes getting off the point and sidetracking the meeting. These participants are usually bright and valuable yet they can ruin a meeting if they are not stopped. You want to manage this person without alienating them. First, when you believe you understand the point being made, close the topic by saying "Thank you, I understand." Second, avoid making eye contact with this person and/or hold up your hand as a casual stop sign. Finally, if all else fails, tape record the meeting and ask them to listen to the tape recording. This usually solves the problem.

CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA., a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.

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