Outperform and impress: 5 Meeting hosting hacks that will set you apart

Bit Famous works with businesses and organisations
to help them communicate with confidence.

By Penny Haslam

MD and Founder - Bit Famous

Penny Haslam

Hosting a meeting that will set you apart. In this video, we delve into the art of hosting a meeting, a crucial skill that can significantly impact your career progression. We discuss the difference between just holding a meeting and truly hosting one, and explore various strategies to engage attendees, manage time effectively, and drive productive discussions. This guide will arm you with the tools you need to turn any meeting into a platform for meaningful communication and collaboration.

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There's career value in hosting a meeting

Meetings take place all the time at work, don't they? And often they're so boring and pointless that wouldn't it be awesome if you could get your hands on them and run them differently? Now there's value there, for sure, but there's also value for you in your career progression. If you're not quite ready to deliver keynotes and presentations, it might be that you could volunteer to run the next meeting or suggest some sort of turn-taking.

This is really valuable to any boss, leader, or manager who is always having to do it. They might want the team to take over the running of it with guidance. 

Hosting a meeting is an opportunity to be seen

The point is it's a real opportunity for you, to be seen; you might be a bit of a best-kept secret. You might want to just stop being a little bit more visible in your team and your business. But it can be daunting to think about being in the spotlight yourself, but by hosting a meeting, you've got a lot of opportunity there to be seen without too much pressure. There are things you can learn and do which enable your success. Here's my advice.

Planning for success - Host, don't hold a meeting. What do you want people to do, know and feel? 

First of all, let's look at planning for success. One thing I would say is that you don't have to hold a meeting. You could think about hosting a meeting. This is where you're the host and you make sure everyone gets what they came for. 

You might have a list of people who've said yes, they're going to come along, or people who've been invited. Why not get in touch with them and ask them what they would like to know about this topic? What would they like to be able to do once they've had this meeting? What input do you need to help you do your job better? You might not want to word it exactly like that, but then you're giving people a chance to inform the agenda in a way that's specific to them, that can begin to make everyone feel a little bit more included and heard. That's what a host should be all about. You really should consider what the people are coming for. What do they want to do? What do they need to know? And how do you want to make them feel by the end of this session?

That's a good rule of thumb for all sorts of interactions that you have, considering the "do, know, feel" idea of things. 

What elements can you include in your meeting?

The second part of the planning, and this is really going to set you up for some solid, confident performing on the day, is to consider all of the different elements. 

What could you include in that meeting that will keep people engaged, enthusiastic, and wanting to come back for another meeting? Imagine that's a radical suggestion, isn't it? 

Include a guest speaker 

You could think about a guest speaker, perhaps depending on how long you've got. Obviously, someone from another department or an external speaker from a different type of business or a client business that you deal with. Bring them in and say, "Right, we've got 10 minutes or you've got 20 minutes. The team really needs to know about this. Can you help? What are you going to talk about?" 

So you're beginning to build your running order, I suppose you could call it. That's what we call it in TV and radio.

Team updates

And think about updates. Are there many bite-sized updates that members of your team could provide? It doesn't have to be grand; it could be really quick. The quicker, the better. Pace is everything. If you've got enough time, think about having a discussion where everybody gets to say something and interact on a particular topic. 

It could be a broad topic or something that's a current challenge. If you can think about ways of positively moderating that so everybody gets heard, I recommend a book called Time to Think by Nancy Klein. Read that, and it will help you facilitate getting everyone to say something on a particular topic, running it tightly to time, and making sure everyone gets heard. "Thank you very much, everybody. Let's move on." 

Mini panel discussions

You might even like to think about a panel discussion, like a mini panel discussion, where the guest speaker and a couple of others who are brought in at that time get to share their thoughts on certain topics. You'll prepare some questions in advance. You might even ask the delegates for questions in advance, saying, "We're having these three people. It's a chance to pick their brains and find out more about how things work. What might you ask them?" Fantastic. 

Get them chatting for a good 20 minutes, and then you can open it up to the rest of the meeting delegates or attendees for their questions. That's also a really good way for you to be seen by others in your organisation. 

You have a guest speaker who we've discussed, and there might be two other department heads or members of the executive committee who you think would be really good in this section. Reaching out to them is a nice way for you to be seen and have involvement with them that isn't too pressured, like doing an elevator pitch or having a "Hey, I'm really great at my job" moment. 

Think about who that might be and prepare them in advance because you know what? They don't like being caught out. You need to give them some guidance on what the questions might be. 

Meeting timing

The final part of the planning stage for your success is to pin all this down time-wise. The easiest way to do that, at a glance, is to create a grid in a Word document with a time column and a script column. What are you going to say? Who is doing what at what time? So if you're kicking off at 10 a.m., you introduce with these words: "This is what we hope to achieve with this meeting. This is what is going to happen. We're going to hear from this person, we're going to hear from that person. But first, we're going to go to our guest speaker at five past 10 or an update at five past 10, and they're going to have 10 minutes." 

So at 10:15, you'll be back on and say, "Thanks very much. Any questions?" The question session might run for 10 minutes, so at 10:25, you should be wrapping up those questions and so on until you reach the end of your meeting duration. 

It might seem a bit fiddly and unnecessary, but it's absolutely essential to keeping things running on time.

Hosting a meeting - Interrupting the boss

Next, let's think about the day, and we're going to stick with the theme of keeping things running on time because you have your schedule, running order, blueprint, or handy script, and you know what's happening. 

However, you know what it's like, some people like to talk in meetings and they can go on a bit, and perhaps they don't know about your timing either. So it's your job to interrupt. Brilliant! You get a chance to interrupt the boss, smashing! 

You don't need to do it rudely; you can do it politely. For example, "Hey, Bob, that's awesome, but we're going to have to leave it there because we have lots more to get through and different areas to cover." 

Perhaps you can add that Bob will be available later, or ask, "Hey, Bob, are you happy to take questions and queries outside of this meeting time? Amazing, Bob! You're a superstar. Thanks so much. Let's move on because my schedule says so."

Your performance

All done! And this is the final point about your performance on the day—do it with a smile and stay hydrated. You're going to need water. You'll be thirsty. This is adrenaline stuff, especially if you've never done it before or you're very new to it, or if you've had a negative experience in the past where you didn't feel successful. 

Feedback on hosting a meeting

Following this plan is crucial for your future success as a meeting host. Embrace the role, smile, breathe, and have a plan. You'll have a great time. And here's one more thing, I always have more to share. But actually, this is the sixth point. If you want feedback, make sure you ask somebody before you start for feedback and let them know you'll be asking for it at the end. Request that they make a note of what worked well, what could be improved, and any other suggestions for your future success as a meeting host. Be specific about the type of feedback you're seeking because most people are not great at giving feedback and tend to say, "Yeah, it was good." You don't know if it was genuinely good or if they're just being polite. What you want is to truly be good, but also to learn how to be even better. Good luck! Go host those meetings!

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