Over my career, I have spent more than 15,000 hours in meetings. The excellent sessions had the right people in the room. The participants came to the meeting well prepared. We debated the matters at hand. We built on each others’ ideas – using the collective intelligence of the group for a full and meaningful discussion. We achieved consensus decisions. Those attending the meeting left energized, supporting the decision, and ready to sell it to stakeholders.
Great relationships happen when you produce tangible outcomes and achieve meaningful goals.
Meetings are how we communicate, make decisions, and collaborate on the most critical issues of the day. Some consider them as the lifeblood of an organization. I have written six insights to help you improve your meetings. A colleague shared an article from the Modern Meeting Company. It inspired the chart below and included links to my six insights and other useful resources that I have collected.
More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it's terrible news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly.
Meetings are hugely expensive
According to research by Fuse, Executives consider 67% of meetings to be failures. Estimated time in meetings:
- collectively an organization spends 15% of all available hours in meetings
- managers spend 35% of their time
- senior managers over 50% of their time
Meetings often lack a clear purpose, fail to generate decisions or action items and feel like a waste of time.
Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives' decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake.
Your colleagues, team members, and boss use the quality of your meetings to judge the quality of your overall leadership. So, if you want to be a great leader, consider our leadership ladder and learn how to lead meetings that produce results.
The most common reasons that I have seen meetings fail are:
- wrong people in the room
- too many people
- lack of clear purpose
- inability to focus on the right issues
- poor facilitation
- too sprawling a topic
- too little time / too much time
- too little relevant knowledge and experience
- poor involvement by one or more members
- failing to use the collective intelligence of the assembled group
- some attendees only focusing on the interests of their constituency
- reliance on bad information
- insufficient common grounding
- inadequate preparation – by either the organizer or the attendees or both
The resources below will help you avoid these pitfalls and more. While every meeting is unique, being familiar with the types of meetings can help you better identify the goals, structure, and activities best suited for your meetings.
Pride yourself in holding productive meetings that leave participants feeling energized and glad they attended.
Is a meeting needed?
Given the above statistics, most people do not like meetings. Consider other ways of getting input, sharing information, arriving at a decision before you consider arranging a meeting.
What to do before you convene any meeting
When it comes to meetings, the most significant judgment you need to make is deciding whether to hold one or not. These articles will help you determine whether your session is worth convening.
- How to Stop Bad Meetings: Tips for Remarkably Productive Meetings
- How to Use the Collective Intelligence in the Room
- The One Question You Must Ask Before Calling a Meeting
- The ‘Should I Hold a Meeting?’ Checklist
Before your meeting starts
Set the stage. As the meeting host, arrive 20-30 minutes early. Ensure all the technology is working. Refreshment (at least water) is available. Greet everyone as they come to the room and thank them for coming. Let them know you are looking forward to their insights. Introduce them to the iBox. The no smartphone rule during the meetings will permeate throughout your organization.
- The iBox – A Breakthrough Innovation for Meeting Effectiveness
- How to Make Your Meetings Remarkably Useful
At the start of a session
Link the objective of the meeting to the organization’s vision and how the outcome will help advance the organization. Do not just show up for a meeting – really be present for your team.
How you conduct yourself reflects your work ethic. Nothing is more important than engaging your participants. You need to listen by giving your full attention to every colleague and speaker in every meeting, every time.
Set out the Ground Rules. Fit the rules to your culture.
Running a decision-oriented meeting
Often, you’ll want to hold a meeting to come to a decision. However, the process to decide on the right action varies significantly. Different kinds of decisions warrant different types of meetings. These resources will help you think through what sort of decision-oriented meeting to hold, and how to conduct it.
- How to Use the Collective Intelligence in the Room
- Conflict or Coordination: Two Different Kinds of Decision-oriented Meetings
- 6 Tips for Facilitating a Vigorous Debate
- The Six Types of Meeting — How to Plan for Successful Meetings (free eBook from MeetingSift with your email)
Running an information meeting
Sometimes, you’ll want to hold a meeting to communicate information to your team. Unfortunately, these kinds of meetings are at most risk of feeling like a waste of time for participants. Consider long and hard if a meeting is the best way to share the information. Try sending the update in advance and let people know you’ll be available on a specific day/time to answer any of their questions. Do not waste people’s time.
Running a brainstorm
Occasionally, you will want to hold a meeting to generate ideas. These sessions are not regular meetings. They run the meet as a brainstorming session. Brainstorm is often an element of the problem solving or innovation meeting.
- How to do Brainwriting That Will Radically Improve Brainstorming
- 10 Tips for Running a Powerful Brainstorm (20-minute video)
- How to run a brainstorm for introverts (and extroverts too)
Assigning action items
Making sure every session ends with clear action items. It is the responsibility of the meeting leader. Run over the list orally — ask for clarifications. Send it out ASAP (never longer than 24 hours). Ask those assigned duties to let you know if they see any difficulty in meeting the date the agreed to at the meeting. Minutes can follow later.
- How to Ensure There’s Enough Time for Assigning Action Items
- A Stunningly Effective Tip for Assigning Action Items
Evaluation at the meeting
At the end of the session take a couple of minutes to get “Plus-Delta” feedback. How we look back affects how we look forward. When we look back at things negatively — finding only faults and things gone wrong — we look forward to negativity. When we reflect on things that have gone right, we look forward with optimism.
Ask your participants to do a Plus-Delta evaluation to helps learn from past mistakes yet carry optimism into the future.
Plus —Acknowledge and evaluate the good things that happened.
Delta — Things that you would change if you could do it over, things you intend to improve in the future.
- The Plus/Delta of a Plus/Delta (2.5-minute video)
Closing the meeting
Thank the participants for coming. Tell them that you’ll have the action items our within 24 hours and the draft minutes within two weeks.
Please email me links to additional resources that you find to be useful and I’ll update the resource list.
Still curious to learn more about productive meetings?
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