In Japan, it is not uncommon for business meetings to be held with all attendees standing up: no table, no chairs, everyone in a circle. The reason why is straightforward – with no distractions, no unnecessary comforts, the meeting is efficient.
Not so in meeting rooms up and down the UK – chairs on wheels that swivel and slide, discussions that go way off course, chirruping iPhones and BlackBerrys, tea, biscuits; chairing a meeting is a skill in its own right. How can you ensure you get the best out of a meeting?
Ahead of any meeting, ensure all attendees receive an agenda and ask participants if they would like to add anything. You don’t want to be too prescriptive, but an agenda will keep meetings focused and insure that all the important points are addressed.
First rule: phones off. Schools across the country have banned mobile phones from class and businesses would do well to follow. This is difficult. Everyone likes to believe they are indispensible but, if the meeting is important, it should command undivided attention. A successful chair will ask at the beginning if anyone is expecting or has to make an important call and will schedule breaks accordingly.