Ask Amber: How to lead a meeting

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

Developing organizational, leadership and speaking skills is essential to leading meetings, an event we will all likely face someday as professionals (if we haven’t already). Whether the group you are leading is two or three colleagues, or a large gathering of people from various organizations, it is important to be prepared. By using these simple steps, you can begin leading meetings with ease.

When you find out you are in charge of planning a meeting, take a moment to organize your thoughts first. Jot down the topic, attendees and things you need to accomplish by the end of the meeting. This will help you to create a detailed agenda to send out to attendees ahead of time. It is important to send all meeting topics and goals (as well as relevant background information) to attendees so your colleagues are prepared to get right down to business and discuss the issues. This agenda will also keep the meeting running smoothly by keeping the discussion on topic.

Using the agenda to guide the discussion, you will be responsible for keeping the conversation productive and efficient. If you are not yet comfortable with cutting off people who dominate the conversation or reminding peers of the time constraints you are under, work that into the beginning of the meeting. Assign time limits to each topic, and clearly state them on the agenda. You can establish ground rules if necessary (with a new group) about turning off distractions and creating a safe space to share ideas. Reference these rules and guidelines as needed throughout the meeting.

Finally, the meeting—your public speaking skills will get to shine at this point. If you’re like me, you might always be looking for ways to improve your abilities as a public speaker. That can be the case at any level of proficiency as a speaker. When leading a meeting, never mumble, avoid fidgeting or doodling and use a confident tone. If you are not a natural speaker, practice with friends or colleagues. The more you speak, the more comfortable you will become. If you don’t feel like you are making progress with your speech skills on your own, take a class. I have joined our JVA Toastmasters group to improve my skills. Our Toastmasters club is open to anyone, regardless of skill level.

Leading meetings uses many skills you are hopefully already developing as a young professional, and the more you prepare the easier it will be to get in the swing of things. Draw on presentations you have done before and the tools you are learning in your current job to become a leader.

For more information about JVA’s Toastmaster group, contact Collin Lessing at 303.477.4896 or collin@jvaconsulting.com.

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