Meetings and Road Trips

Managing a meeting is like setting off on a long car trip with friends or family. You need to plan your route, pay attention to the rules of the road, consider what will keep your passengers engaged and occupied, and always remember you have to get back home at the end.

Just as adults and children consider car trips to be tolerable as the only way to get to certain places, so too do business people view meetings as necessary evils.

Here are three ways to make an enormous difference in your meetings.


Most of us wouldn't start a trip through unfamiliar territory without looking at a map beforehand so we don't get lost. Preparation may be just ten minutes, but a little preparation goes a long way toward making a meeting successful. You want your time to be productive and efficient. Whether your meeting is with a five-person project team, 100 worldwide sales people, or an online multi-location group, you need to consider a few key items ahead of time.

? What is your desired outcome? If the meeting were over, and you were delighted with it, what would you have as a result? Do you want consensus on a course of action or new ideas on a recurring problem? Do you simply want updates on what everyone is doing? Once you're clear on what you want, you can state a clear Meeting Objective and share it with everyone at the meeting.

? Decide on the type of meeting. Most meetings have four possible activities: sharing information, collecting information, problem solving, and decision making. Many meetings are a mixture of these. For every agenda item, think ahead of time about what you want as an outcome. That will help you, and everyone else, know when you're on-topic and when you're not.


When you're in a car on a trip, the easy ways to ruin the experience are to get stopped by the police when you disobey the rules of the road or to have the passengers fighting and complaining. The same is true of meetings. Let people know what the guidelines are. Do your best to keep the dialogue moving forward. Listen to all viewpoints, but don't let one view dominate the others. Manage the time and discussion so that speakers change and participants are engaged. If you're bored, so are others. If you're tired of a particular voice, you're not alone. Use the following guidelines to keep the meeting lively.

? Be an effective chairperson. Be even-handed. Make and maintain good personal connection with your group. If you want active participation, avoid evaluating what people say until it's time to make a decision. Keep the information and dialogue flowing. And when you get to a decision point, say so publicly. State the decision (whether it's consensus or a decision to get more info or a selected course of action), then go on to the next steps on that decision or to the next topic.

? Manage airtime. Manage the meeting like a good traffic cop ? give everyone his or her turn. Enforce brevity. If someone rambles on and on, paraphrase his or her point and then turn to someone else in the meeting. Draw out the quiet individuals.

? Handle conflict. The majority of conflict in meetings arises from misunderstanding between two or more people. Be sure each position is clearly articulated (without value judgments about opposing viewpoints) and understood.


There's something anti-climactic about getting home from a long car trip. The ride home seems endless when the anticipation is gone. This happens in meetings also. So end your meetings with a bang, not a whimper. Here's how:

? Finish on time. Honor the time commitment you made to participants. If you consistently end meetings later than promised, people will either make excuses not to attend your next one or find a reason to leave early.

? Identify next steps. A very frustrating aspect of meetings is the perception that nothing changes as a result of them. A way to ensure something indeed will happen is to identify and write down next steps ? the agreed-upon actions to be taken after the meeting. Include what has to be done, by whom, and when. Do this on a flipchart or in some other visible way. And make sure attendees get the notes of the meeting.

? Finally, follow up on the next steps after the meeting. Let people know it matters that they were in the meeting. Check in. See how it's going. Ask if additional resources are needed. If appropriate, see if a follow-up meeting makes sense as a way to chart progress. Keep people informed.

Again, a little planning goes a long way in making meetings productive and even enjoyable. You probably already spend a lot of time now, clarifying decisions after the meeting or even trying to remember what decisions were made! Consider the cost of meetings when everyone leaves and remembers the tangents and not what actions will be taken. In this case, the meeting itself was ineffective and no one's behavior or subsequent action was changed. That's wasted time ? a real dead end.

Peg Kelley, MBA, has been a professional meeting facilitator for 25 years & is co-author of the booklet "39 Secrets for Effective and Enjoyable Meetings" available for $6.00 at her Facilitation Plus website at She publishes a free e-newsletter on Meeting Management Tips. Send your email address to her at if you want to receive it.

In The News:

pen paper and inkwell

cat break through

Conference Calling Can Save Your Sales OrganizationTime and Money!

Conference calling can save you money. There is no doubt... Read More

How To Get What You Really Want

As a small business owner, entrepreneur or independent professional, it's... Read More

Summertime Blues

It's hard to believe the year will be half over... Read More

The New Five Truths of Employee Motivation

Motivation is a term that is so widely used, yet... Read More

Managing Change - Get it Right

In any event, getting the process right is a vital... Read More

Parenting Your Employees to Better Performance

Have you ever worked for someone who was such a... Read More

What Personal Assistants Really Want

What would happen if the personal assistants in your organisation... Read More

Strategic Clarity for Communication Management

Over the past few weeks I've been developing plans for... Read More

On The Job Training is Something You Canā??t Afford to Skip

Trained employees are more productive employees; thereā??s no doubt about... Read More

Quality Standards with ISO 9001

Standardizing Quality SystemsThe ISO, or International Organization for Standardization, was... Read More

Creativity and Innovation Management ? Feasibility

Creativity can be defined as problem identification and idea generation... Read More

9 Strategies for Writing Accounts Payable Procedures

The Cash to Cash Cycle Part Four of SeriesNext: Complete... Read More

Quality Hiring: Are You Doing It Right?

Quality hiring is more than running ads, screening, interviewing and... Read More

Looking through the Glass Ceiling - Women in Management

Women have made tremendous contributions to society at every level;... Read More

Make It Easy to Reply - Voice Mail That Works

If you are like most business people, voice mail has... Read More

Employee Discipline: How to Nip Problems in the Bud

Are you uncomfortable with delivering disciplinary action, even involving employees... Read More

Difficult Employees-Poor Performance - 10 Tips for Dealing with it in the Workplace

I personally struggle with the term 'managing people' - because... Read More

The Seven Essentials of Business Communication

There are seven essential elements to successful business communication:StructureClarityConsistencyMediumRelevancyPrimacy/RecencyPsychological Rule... Read More

Allowing Employees Responsibility

Merely assigning a task with detailed instructions is not effective... Read More

When Being A Facilitator DOESNT Help

I talked with a group of internal consultants last week... Read More

Lessons From Innovative Companies

What do the companies 3M, Polaroid, and Walt Disney have... Read More

The Fairness of Office Politics... Integrity and Political Motivation!

I hear many complaints daily about the "unfairness" of politics... Read More

Proven Secrets to Keeping Your People and Increasing Your Profits

Why are people changing jobs so quickly these days?Here are... Read More

Thoughts on Empowerment

People are empowered when they are given the authority and... Read More

Success in Business Means Managing Negative Emotions

You may have the MBA but if an internal critic... Read More

Classifying Motivational Needs

While there exist several useful definitions of motivation, for our... Read More

Well-Defined Processes ? How to Create

Interested in learning how to reduce development time, save money... Read More

Recruitment - Pick People Who Think

Old style management doesn't encourage personal mind control, employees aren't... Read More

Resistance - How to Handle It

Do you ever meet with resistance from other people -... Read More

Five Steps to Better Employee Management

Hiring employees is a huge responsibility. Before hiring anyone, be... Read More

10 Fundamentals for Effective Meeting

Here are ten fundamental concepts that characterize an effective meeting.Definition:... Read More

Influencing Change - A Guide for Sellers, Coaches, and Supervisors

When people or groups make a decision to purchase something,... Read More

Invite Self-Managed Staff

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to... Read More