Every office worker must surely be familiar with meetings – that unavoidable shared time when everyone gets together to Discuss and Solve Something. However, meetings can be a pain, especially when nothing is accomplished or when they drag on for too long. Hence, if you’re chairing a meeting, keep the following tips in mind.

Establish the time, place and list of attendees. Send out the necessary invites to the correct people, and indicate the time and place. You’d be surprised how many people muff up this basic step.

Time it well. Morning meetings are generally more productive than after-lunch or end-of-the-day meetings, when most people are feeling sleepy (after lunch) or raring to go home.

Plan ahead. Make sure the set-up is immaculate and well planned. The projector should be in place, the notes ready and the laptop charged. Last-minute fumbling will just annoy everyone (especially those who don’t want to be there in the first place).

Know your agenda. Ask yourself why you are chairing this meeting, what you hope to achieve and how you will measure the results. This will sharpen your focus.

Don’t waste time. Don’t beat about the bush. Attention needs to be earned, and waffling around won’t help you score any points. Be confident, and dive straight into the subject matter of your meeting.

Take charge. Know when you’ve lost your audience, and do the necessary to get their attention back – steer the meeting back to the topic, change the inflection of your voice, flash some slides, give out notes.

Add humour. Making people laugh is the quickest way to grab everyone’s attention. It also diffuses tension, especially if the meeting involves heavy topics. But use it sparingly to ensure your attendees still take you seriously.

Condense it into an hour.
Three-hour meetings are far too long and tedious – they rarely accomplish anything, and waste a lot of time. The human attention span is severely limited – so keep your meeting to an hour if possible, or give short breaks if the meeting drags past an hour. Break the monotony by asking if anyone has questions (which they invariably won’t, but at least you’d have given them a short break).

Be organised. Don’t jump haphazardly from topic to topic – make notes and construct your meeting around a logical structure that everyone can follow.

Be polite. End your meeting by thanking everyone for their time.