Language Skills for Successful Meetings

The three skills which make the biggest difference to the 120x90workglumeffectiveness of all meetings than to any other kind of communication are:

Knowing what you want – having outcomes
Noticing what you are getting – using your senses
Keeping changing what you are doing – being flexible


1. Have your outcomes set for each section of content. Check – are there outcomes for: you, your team, your department, the organisation, or anyone else involved? Ensure that the outcomes and evidence are sensory based – that means – what you will see, hear and feel when you have this outcome. It might seem tedious to check each of these senses out and with each person, but just because you see things one way, another person may have a gut feeling about the matter in hand and yet another will want to check you are singing from the same hymn sheet. A little time spent on this at this point will save nasty surprises later. For a team meeting write the outcomes down and keep them highly visible (e.g. on a flipchart), so that amendments or additions can be made on the chart – post-notes and different coloured pens really useful here.

2. Gather other people’s outcomes and assure that everyone is happy about which outcomes are the priorities for this meeting. Check this out by looking at each person in turn and if their eyes move away from you or they appear to be making some kind of face, they are most probably thinking, so give them time before you move on. Only move on when you have a clear yes or no from each person. Again this saves time in the long run.

3. Set the time frames for the meeting. Ensure that each person involved gets a chance to say what they need to say in their allotted time, again give them time to do this, but see next sentence. Do not allow any one person to monopolise all of the time. If necessary, interrupt them politely and bring the meeting back on track.

4. Check at regular intervals what is happening for you, for other people, and for the meeting process. Check by looking, watching, and listening (your gut feeling may not be as reliable as you would like it to be).

5. Watch for red herrings (things that are irrelevant) and ask the following ‘relevancy challenge’ type of question, “Excuse me, I’m not clear how the issues you are raising are helping us to achieve our outcome?”

6. If any member of the team is repeatedly blocking the process of achieving the meeting’s outcomes by raising ‘cannots or buts’, an easy way to keep the responsibility with them is by asking questions like, “What would have to happen for us to be able to…?”. This keeps the responsibility for solving problems with the person who is raising them and enables the person you have questioned to perhaps “think out of the box.”

7. Summarise decisions and intended action plans for each stage of the meeting.

8. Have each person internally rehearse their next action steps by going through what they are going to do by acting ‘as if’ they are seeing it happening, talking themselves through the steps and actually putting the steps into action. If there are any concerns, go back and check that the outcome is stated in the positive, that it is specific, that the way it might affect other people, other areas of work has been checked, what evidence there will be that the outcome has been achieved and what each person has to do themselves.

9. Finally, summarise all the next action steps, with a completion date and person specified to be responsible for the action. Confirm the date for the next meeting


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