Have you ever been in a meeting and you were left leaving with more ‘WHY?’ questions than answers or ideas to solutions? I believe everyone has experienced a dreadful meeting or left a meeting scratching their head. What happened to make this meeting so dreadful? Was it the lack of leadership or participation? No new business ideas were being shared? Or the meeting lasted an hour longer than scheduled? These are all real scenarios that happen every day in organizations. Here are six tips to lead an effective meeting and avoid the head scratching.

1. Send A Concise Agenda Well Before the Meeting

People like knowing what they’re getting into. Create an agenda that outlines the topics of discussion and send out a day or two ahead of time. Attendees will know what is going to be discussed and can prepare in advance. If there is anything specific you want the attendees to prepare for, be clear in the email!

2. Bring in An Outsider

Reoccurring team meetings can sometimes get in the weeds and team members can lose focus on the big picture. Bring in a subject matter expert to offer a new perspective that could spark fresh ideas among the team.

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3. Use Visuals

Know your audience! Not everyone learns the same way. One person on your team may be a visual learner while another may prefer other methods. If you have a team member who is a visual learner, add pictures, and write down ideas on a board for everyone to conceptualize. If your project is dealing with numbers, create a graph to show relationships in quantities.

4. Encourage Active Participation

Don’t assume all team members know one another well. Start with an ice breaker or introduction of team members to create an inviting atmosphere. As the leader of the meeting, you may need to prod the group to initiate ideas and conversation. Maintain an open mind to other’s ideas to encourage increased participation. Do not abruptly shoot down a colleagues idea, instead, acknowledge their idea and tactfully offer an alternative point of view on the matter.

In addition, make sure to assign tasks and related action items out to the appropriate team members before the meeting concludes.

5. Hold the Meeting in a New Environment

New environments make meetings feel less stale and can generate fresh ideas. Whether you hold the meeting in a different conference room or choose an off-site venue, change it up! Find a local coffee shop or restaurant where you can have lunch while meeting as a team.

6. Don’t Drag Them Our Longer Than They Need to Be

Follow your agenda and emphasize the importance of punctuality. New items can be added, but be mindful of how much time is left in the meeting. Be respectful of everyone’s time. Table items for the next meeting or schedule an additional meeting if there are follow-up items. If there are items that only pertain to a few team members, have a meeting with just the pertinent team members.

For more tips on leading effective meetings, small business advice and more, check out the Society Insurance HR blog series. At Society, our people make the biggest difference; learn more about our career opportunities