Have You Heard the One About the Moderator and the Timekeeper?

BY C. Lee Smith
Featured image for “Have You Heard the One About the Moderator and the Timekeeper?”

What are the three essential roles that must be filled for any meeting to be effective? The side conversation tracker, the moderator and the timekeeper. We picked up this bit of knowledge from Cameron Herold, founder of COO Alliance, and author of Meetings Suck. Here’s what we learned about how you can improve your meetings when he was our guest on a recent Manage Smarter podcast.

Elements of a Good Meeting

Many productivity consultants have made meeting improvement their business. They’ll tell managers to limit invitations to a meeting. You only need to invite active participants to a meeting. People who don’t have anything to add to the meeting should be working on the project they must complete. To understand how expensive meetings can be, calculate the average hourly rate for the employees who are on the Zoom call or sitting around the conference table. Multiply that rate by the number of people in attendance and times the number of hours the meeting lasts. With that number in mind, take steps to minimize the length of time the meeting will last.

Other experts will tell you a good meeting is one that includes a stated purpose and an agenda that is shared in advance with participants. When each participant understands their responsibility, they’ll show up prepared. For example, if you believe one of your reps scored some great intelligence on a prospect or a competitor, let them you know expect an update during the meeting.

Don’t let an update turn into a dissertation. We all know the staff member who likes to talk and talk and talk. When the individual stops to draw a breath, take the opportunity to seize control of the conversation and move on to the next topic.

And don’t let attendees leave the meeting until they commit. Good meetings are often all about working out who will complete specific aspects of a project. Get verbal agreement from participants on what they’ll tackle and when they’ll get it done.

Good Meetings Include the Moderator and the Timekeeper

Once you have the elements of a good meeting in place, you’re ready for major league meeting management. To reach that level, you need to assign individuals to specific roles. When you ask people to monitor the following aspects of your meetings, outcomes will be more successful.

The Moderator — One person, often the individual who called the meeting, must be the moderator. This person tactfully ensures that the big talker doesn’t monopolize the meeting. A good moderator will watch all of the participants. They’ll encourage the more reticent participants to add to the conversation.

The Timekeeper — It can be challenging to keep pace on an agenda in the meeting. Some meeting organizers may try to estimate the time allotted for each topic. That practice will help the timekeeper carry out their duties. Ask one person to watch the time during the meeting and to make periodic announcements regarding the time left and the number of topics to handle.

The Side-​Conversation Tracker — When some of your team members get into a meeting together, innovation happens. They may come up with a great idea on how to proceed with a difficult prospect. While this is a positive development, it has nothing to do with the current meeting agenda. Your side conversation tracker can write down all topics that come up during the meeting. Later, that person can review them with the appropriate people to decide whether it’s necessary to hold other meetings that include the right participants.

When you actively manage your meetings and participants commit to take care of the items they put on their lists, the business moves forward. That means assigning someone to the roles of side conversation tracker, the moderator and the timekeeper.