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Take charge! Seven tips to successful meetings

We've all been there. We attend a seminar or a meeting and gnash our teeth as the leader falters, gets off track or allows other participants to waste our time. These tips create a strategy for effective leadership.

1. You're the leader. Be strong! Don't abdicate your role to the participants.

2. Get buy-in on your agenda and goals before you begin
Begin with, "Here's what we're covering today. Do these topics meet your needs?"

3. Keep the group on track. Sooner or later, a participant will toss out an irrelevant comment or (worse) a long-winded story. Another will dominate the discussion. Be ready with tactics: "I'm sorry to interrupt, and I'd like to hear that story during our break." Or, "That's a great topic -- next week's class." Or, "Let's hear a question from someone who's been silent all morning."

4. Demand attention! Cell phones off, private conversations in the hallway. Participants will be grateful. They're usually afraid to speak up themselves.

5. Eyelids drooping? Time for a break, even if you haven't scheduled one. Sleepy participants lower the meeting's energy. Incorporate exercises and breakout sessions into any event that lasts more than an hour. Keep everyone moving.

6. Just before your meeting ends, identify take-aways. What do you want participants to learn? What should they remember?

7. End early. Use the last fifteen minutes -- no more -- to go around the room and ask everyone a question. "What will be different next time you sit down to write?" "What surprised you most in today's class?" "What is your next step?"

About the Author

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., author of Making the Big Move, offers straightforward career and business consulting to midlife professionals "When Your Career Means Business."
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