The ‘art’ of Opening and Closing meetings

opening a meeting

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

If  you’ve felt that your meetings haven’t had the right spark of energy, or actually resulted in anything but a room full of hot air, then read on.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that people who are inexperienced at chairing meetings make two common mistakes:

  • Meetings are opened by jumping straight into ‘content’ (the agenda), without setting context or enjoying a momentary chat about the members of the meeting.
  • Meetings are closed without clarifying the actions, with target dates, and ensuring that they are understood.

The thing is, the participants of a meeting are, in most cases, human-beings. People with worries, excitement, aspirations, sexual energies… So when we ignore the people-elements of a group of human-beings congregating around a table, we take out the essence of getting together in the first place (you may as well hold the meeting over the telephone). It’s always a good thing to ‘humanize’ our meetings.

This is what I do.

I celebrate a success by the group or by an individual, or share some other positive news. It could be as simple as talking about the weather. Whatever my choice of subject, I talk about something positive that everyone can engage in. I get people smiling and a few laughs in before the technical subjects flood in. What I find is:

  • I get more engagement in the meeting from some of the more silent members, if they’ve had a chance to speak
  • The body language of the members will become more relaxed
  • It gives me a reference point in the meeting should the discussion require a breakpoint
  • It will assert ME a human being, and as a leader (by demonstrating my control of a meeting)
  • The energy levels of the group will have risen

The same goes for the end of the meeting, during which I may have taken notes or had someone record the minutes. The ‘content’ of the meeting is over, but the meeting itself is not.

I always end a meeting by summarizing the content of the meeting, in most cases expressed as the agreed actions with owners. If I hadn’t done so before, an expectation of the timeframe for the action is discussed – looking at them in the whites of their eyes! This becomes my indelible record of commitment, and I publish it to the group after the meeting. It’s also crucial at this point that if I suspect any action isn’t clear, or hasn’t been understood properly, that this is called out. A way of confirming the understanding is to ask what the output of the action is, such as a paper, a decision, etc. Whatever it takes to be satisfied that the next steps have the best chance of success, I take it!

Want an alternative view on how best to hold meetings? Then I recommend the following two books:

The Manager’s Guide to Effective Meetings (Briefcase Books)

How to Run a Great Workshop: The Complete Guide to Designing and Running Brilliant Workshops and Meetings

This post is part 9 of 20 in the series Make Meetings Work
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About the author /

Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Truthsayers Neurotech, the world's first Neurotech platform servicing the enterprise. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development and Associate Member of the Agile Business Consortium.

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