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Ask Linda: Running a Great Meeting

Managing meetings isn’t easy. However, it is a skill that can be learned.

by Lab Manager
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Dear Linda, 

As the recently promoted manager of my lab, I am tasked with setting up and facilitating weekly staff meetings. My predecessor had a very casual style when it came to running meetings, which I found less than productive and sometimes confusing. The biggest problem was not having an agenda ahead of the meeting. Afterwards, other staff and myself were not clear on who was suppose to do what and when. I would like to change that style going forward to create more efficient and productive meetings. Any tips? 

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Dear Lydia,

Managing meetings isn’t easy. However, it is a skill that can be learned. The following guidelines can help:

Publish and follow an agenda
The easiest way to get a meeting off to a productive start is to include timeframes for each agenda item. That way you can specify who needs to be at each part of the meeting. Nothing frustrates busy professionals more than sitting through parts of a meeting that do not concern them.

Start on time
Scientists often have interruptions and schedule changes that are beyond their control. Starting on time can be tough, but every attempt should be made to stay on the established schedule.

Give periodic summaries
During the meeting, occasionally review what has been covered by asking group members to summarize the discussion up to that point.

Assign tasks to participants
Good meeting managers often assign different tasks to group members. Usually these are formal assignments that take advantage of the participants' natural skills and abilities.

Ask questions
Ask questions that cannot be answered with just a yes or no. When you ask for someone's opinion, listen carefully and acknowledge that you heard and understood what was said.

The last item on your agenda should always be team analysis and group self-assessment. Even if you must call someone or ask a couple of questions as you walk down the hall, get a sense of how the meeting was perceived by one or two of the participants.

If you try some of these techniques, you may walk out of your next meeting thinking, “Hey, that went really well!”


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