Now the title of this post may appear rather obvious to many, but here in Spain it is a challenge to start a meeting on time so actually FINISHING a meeting on time can seem like a “mission impossible”.
However, as I reiterate in our meetings training courses to Spanish participants, if they are doing business with anglo saxons which requires leading meetings, an adherence to timings is essential.
Finishing a meeting on time firstly requires that a finishing time has been stipulated. Again, this seems obvious but it is amazing how often this small detail gets overlooked. The key to finishing a meeting on time is in the agenda. A crucial feature of the agenda is that each topic listed for discussion should also have a specific time allotted to it. It is then the responsibility of the chairman to make sure that each point is discussed within the time frame allowed.
Anyone who has chaired a meeting of very vociferous participants will know how difficult this can be, but difficult is not impossible and responsability for ensuring that a meeting finishes on time really does lie with the chair person.
So what can a chair person do to increase his/her chances of controlling a meeting sufficiently well to keep to timings?
Here are five considerations:
- Only invite those people to the meeting who are absolutly essential and can make a contribution
- When compiling the agenda, make sure that the relevant peope are consulted and they also agree on the time allotted to certain topics
- Always start the meeting on time even if some people are missing. Turning up late for meetings is often an issue that can be remedied by everyone applying a little self discipline. However, people will soon start making more of an effort to turn up on time when they realise that the chair person is not prepared to wait for them.
- If someone strays off the subject, intervene and stop them going further by reminding them that this is not the point under discussion. If they wish to talk about a new topic it needs to go on another meeting agenda. Alternatively, it can be saved for the end of the meeting as long as there is time left over.
- If an item is important enough to warrant going over its allotted time, you have two options; reschdule to continue discussing on another occasion or renegotiate the agenda with the other participants to see if other items can be deferred.
Finishing meetings on time has two important benefits –
It leads to improved productivity all round as people become confident about scheduling other appointments straight after the meeting instead of leaving a huge margin of time “just in case” (in Spain very probably) the meeting overruns.
It also increases the morale of the staff as they recognise that their time is being respected and not “stolen” by inefficiently run meetings.