Some meetings are relatively straightforward to manage, for example those between just you and your client. Many other meetings are much more difficult to run, for example where you have you, your client, the other side and their lawyers all present. They’re even more complicated if the bank or other third parties are represented!
Chairing such meetings involves more than just managing getting through the agenda. The Chair needs to manage three strands of activity if the meeting is to be a success.
This strand consists of the ‘what’ of the meeting – all the data, facts and opinions about the subject in hand. Information will need to be exchanged. Budgets and timings have to be agreed. Documents need to be signed etc.
This stream of activity is concerned with ‘how’ the meeting is conducted. For example:
- How will the agenda be agreed?
- Are the key points summarised and checked out before moving on?
- How will disagreements be settled?
- What are the ways in which decisions will be made?
In my experience not enough emphasis is given to these processes. By choosing the right ones, they can make getting the tasks so much more efficient and even enjoyable!
This stream of activity is primarily concerned with the people in the meeting and the way they are dealt with. The trouble with people is they can have feelings! For example, about:
- The other people in the meeting and the hierarchy
- What has happened before the meeting or about the content of the meeting
- The way the meeting is being conducted and about the role of the Chair.
The biggest danger, it seems to me, is that meetings involving lawyers can seem Chair-less. If it seems difficult to appoint a single Chair, it might help to appreciate that the role can alternate – be reallocated as you move through the agenda. But somebody should take responsibility for the smooth running of the meeting.
Having appointed one, the Chair must be careful not to be subsumed into the details of the tasks at hand. Otherwise the process and people aspects can easily go out the window! Then there’s the risk of meetings with lawyers being too long, boring and frustrating!
For more thoughts about improving the effectiveness of meetings, see: