Category: Meetings

If you think scheduling a conference call is easy, then you may be in for a surprise the first time you are instructed to get four to ten people on a line for a phone meeting. While getting two or even three people to sync their schedules is difficult enough, when you try to get a bunch of busy individuals together it can prove frustrating and nearly impossible. Fortunately, by taking a systematic approach to the issue, you can generally simplify the process for yourself and everyone else dramatically.

Start out by doing some personal analysis of the people on the call. In your experience, who is the hardest to get in touch with? Who can the meeting absolutely not run without if they cancel? Try to get a feel for the priority of the meeting members, and structure your actions accordingly. For example, if you must have the president of the company in attendance, then you will likely want to start with him or her, and then move downward from there.

Set a date and an alternate date. Do not offer the alternate date up front. Simply call the various participants or their assistants and find out who can make the date and time. Remember that there may be different time zones involved. Once you have an idea of whether the date and time are going to work, then you should touch base with the person who originally scheduled the call to determine if the absence of one or two people will mean that the call cannot move forward. In most cases, as long as key players are present the rest of the people on the call are considered to be flexible.

Category: Meetings

We have all been in attendance at business meetings that got out of control. The yelling, the droning on and on, the pointless discussions about nothing.   The list of pet meeting peeves goes on and on. In fact, I know a number of people who actually refuse to attend meetings, sending - you guessed it! - their virtual assistants in via Skype or their on-site administrators in their stead. While you may not be able to control other people's business meetings, at least you can exert some control over your own agendas.

Consider using these techniques to help you keep control of your meetings:

Carefully monitor your body language
Particularly if someone comes into the meeting expressing strong, controversial opinions, you will need to be careful that your body language does not convey an opinion - particularly approval - about the statements that they are making. Hopefully, you will be able to reign that person in by ignoring them or expressing tacit disapproval, but in some cases you may have to deliver some calm, clear criticism using plenty of eye contact.

Paraphrase other's statements
If you are moderating a discussion, then paraphrasing what someone else is saying can help them clarify their intent and help others better understand the concepts that they are expressing. It also can help limit angry overreactions to statements that may have simply been poorly phrased.

When things have gone far enough, call for action.
As the leader, it is your job to help your team complete its mission. This means that ultimately the group needs to leave the meeting with a plan for what comes next. Even if the conclusion is that more discussion is needed, at least you will end on a positive note and a consensus.