How to Conduct a Meeting – Part I

The first step in conducting a successful meeting is to establish the rules of engagement. It is important to establish standards of behavior that keep the meeting moving, while respecting every participant’s input and value to the group. The tool for this is a set of Ground Rules, presented at the start of every meeting and agreed upon by every participant.

Here are some examples of typical Ground Rules:

  • Big Picture View – what’s good for the group or organization, rather than what is good for a particular individual or team.
  • Windshield – do not rehash the past, look forward.
  • ELMO – don’t beat a dead horse; “Enough, Let’s Move On.”
  • Build Up, Therefore – do not criticize others’ ideas; offer an alternative.
  • Rule of “3” – wait for 3 others to speak before speaking again; great for the known spotlight hogs.
  • Silent, not unhappy – speak up if you have something to add. It’s OK to be quiet, but if there is an issue, it needs to be discussed.
  • Donut rule – focus on making what is existing better, not on wishing for what you don’t have.
  • 100-mile rule – if you wouldn’t drive 100 miles to take care of it, stay here and engaged.
  • If > 60 sec late? (What is the penalty for people arriving back late from breaks?)
  • Technology? (Cell phones, iPads and laptops can all be very distracting…or useful. Let the group decide what rules need to be in place to reduce distractions.)
  • Side Conversations? (Instead of whispering to a friend, let the whole group hear the discussion.)
Ground Rules help establish the rules of engagement.
Ground Rules help establish the rules of engagement.

There are no hard and fast rules for the Ground Rules, but do make sure you address the most common derailing behaviors, such as:

  • timeliness
  • a few vocal participants dominating the conversation
  • criticism too early in a process
  • getting stuck in a long-winded or unproductive conversation

Setting ground rules is the first step in gearing up for a productive meeting! Part II of this post will look at your meeting structure to ensure you keep everyone on track and accomplish your meeting objective(s).