Small business tipMeetings can, and do, spiral out of control. But if you’re in charge of the gathering, you want to seem on top of things and avoid wasting everybody’s time with inefficient meetings. With some smart planning and a few day-of strategies, you’ll be on your way to more focused team meetings.

To Establish Control, Start With a Plan
Prepare an agenda. Go old-school, type it up and send it out to the attendees ahead of time (and then displayed or handed out at the meeting as a friendly reminder). Having the details on paper will help keep you—and everyone else—stay focused on what the meeting’s really about.

Think about the ultimate goal you hope to achieve and work backward to determine what needs to be discussed to reach that goal, what questions need to be answered, and what responsibilities need to be assigned. Also think about the attendees. How many? Do they know each other? What typically distracts them? This will help you decide if you need to build in any extra time at the beginning of the session.

Smart Spaces Keep You Focused
The right meeting space discourages distraction and interruptions. Set the stage for productivity. Put your phone away, make sure the agenda is available, and restate the goals while you’re welcoming everyone.

Pass out additional materials as you go along rather than at the beginning of the meeting, which can cause a distraction by giving people the opportunity to read ahead and derail the meeting.

Keep On Top of the Group
No matter how carefully you plan your meeting, distractions can still happen. Be sure you’re armed with a few polite, yet effective, ways to redirect the conversation back to the goal at hand.

  • The Bounce-Back: If someone moves on to a different topic before one question is answered, acknowledge the new subject, but bring the discussion back to the topic at hand: “That’s definitely an area we need to discuss, but before we do, let’s wrap up our conversation on the seating chart.”
  • The Parking Lot: This strategy involves keeping a list of topics you want to acknowledge but not discuss at this time. That way, if someone interrupts with something off-topic, you can just say, “That’s a great conversation that deserves its own time. I’ll note it for later, but for now, let’s get back to the event details.” Then write it down to come back to at the end of the meeting (or set a time to talk about it later).
  • The Time-Keeper: If you find the group spending too much time talking about unrelated things, remind them that you all want to get out of there on time: “Great conversation here, but we only have about 10 minutes left, so let’s be sure to stay on track.”