Meetings are getting a bad rep in corporate America. Well, really, they’ve had headwind for a really long time it’s just that every year a new group of people enter the workforce and experience how bad they are and complain. With that consistent barrage of bad press you would think the meeting would be dead by now but, alas, Outlook and Google Calendar and other systems keep them alive.
If you want to be someone who bucks the trend on meetings then here’s my guide to making them interesting, productive, and efficient.
Know What You Want Out Of The Meeting
Seriously, you should never have a meeting just to get status or “sync up” or because it seems like you need it. Meetings mean time and money and typically no one wants to waste either. I know that I would rather be making forward progress on team goals or my goals or my family goals than be in a meeting. So, start at the beginning.
Write down what you want before you setup the meeting
Can You Get More Done Other Ways?
Now that you have purpose for the interaction you need to really consider if a meeting is the best way to get the information or make a decision or get everyone on the same path. If there are better ways then stop right here and skip the meeting. Here are some ideas on how to accomplish your goal without a meeting:
- Talk to people in person
- Talk to people on the phone
- Talk to people on a video conference
- Record a video and send a link to it to your peers
- Use a group chat or set of 1/1 chat sessions
- Send an email (that’s a whole other topic)
- Send a letter
- Write up a newsletter
- Create a document to disseminate the information (hopefully a wiki page)
- Host a survey or poll if you need feedback
The key is to avoid the meeting if there are more effective ways to get to your goal. Meetings might be easy but they are really only great in a few situations.
When there is a better way, even if the meeting is “easier” for you, skip the meeting
Setup a proper meeting
Okay, so you’ve figured out what you need to accomplish and a meeting seems to be the best way. If you’re going to do this please, please, please do the planning you need to do to have an extremely productive meeting. Here’s what I do to setup.
- Create an agenda that lists the topics, background, and desired outcomes. You might need to spend some time getting this together…
- Plan the meeting so that you start “light banter” right on time and the main agenda 5 minutes later. We are human and we like to have relationships with the people we meet.
- Plan enough time to leave the room 5 minutes early. Trust me on this, everyone hates meetings that go to the max time except the organizer. You’ll get a reputation for great meetings if everything else is wrong and you do just this one thing!
- Host the meeting with a video conference (or phone conference if you must) for people in other locations. The power of a face on the screen is amazing.
- Make sure the attendees you need are going to show up. That means reminder emails, 1/1 chats, phone calls, etc. Don’t waste everyone’s time coming if the most critical person doesn’t show… If this could happen to you, a meeting is not right for you.
- Remove all attendees that you’ve added as FYIs. You should communicate to them differently (see the list above).
- Make a plan for when you will start each topic so that you can achieve #3: ending 5 minutes early.
Plan the meeting as if everyone coming paid their whole month’s salary to be there and you’ll lose your job if you don’t impress them.
Host a great meeting
You put the planning time in. You determined that a meeting was the best way to go. You only included the necessary people. You empowered them with the information they needed ahead of the time.
Now it’s time to host a great meeting.
Here are my steps for success:
- Be ready! An unprepared host wastes everyone’s time in the meeting and is annoying.
- Start on time (meaning, start the banter on time and the main content on time)
- Follow the agenda unless you discover you were completely and utterly wrong, in which case, re-plan on the spot with the attendees to make sure it is meaningful
- Keep track of the clock and move the discussion along if needed. Don’t be afraid to use a “Parking Lot”, “Next Time”, or “In The Hall Later” list. Be open with the time management so everyone knows its not personal.
- Keep track of the decisions, action items (with names and dates), and general topics discussed. If you cannot host the discussion and take notes, ask for a volunteer note taker at the beginning and have them send the notes to you afterward so YOU can curate them.
- Stop the main discussion in time to repeat the decisions, action items (with names and dates), and parking lot before your 5-minute-early end time.
Wow, that was some work, we got through a lot… and that was a great meeting!
Now that you made it through the meeting and you have the amazing value that they can bring it is time to really bring in the results through great follow up. Here is your checklist.
- Reflect: What could you have done better. Maybe someone fell asleep. Maybe you didn’t get through the agenda. Maybe you found the agenda was wrong. Maybe you weren’t prepared. Maybe it was just all around awesome. Figure out what you should do more of and less of next time.
- Notes: Either you took notes or someone sent you notes, either way, get them together, edit them, and send them out to the attendees, the absentees, and anyone else genuinely interested in the results. Action items go first, then decisions, then high-level-overview-bullets of the discussion.
- Action Items: These are meaningless if they don’t get done. Since you have a name and a date help everyone make progress by sending reminders and updates to the attendees.
- Decisions: Implement the decisions. That’s what you went there for, right?
- Be Thankful: Be sure to thank everyone for coming. They gave you their precious time and you’re going to turn that in to something. Make them feel good about what they accomplished.
Wow, you made it. That was great.
Reflect on the meeting and decide what you will do more of and less of next time. Always improve your contribution!
I’m excited for you to try this out. You made it to the bottom of the post and so I have something special for you. If you need help setting up a meeting, working through an agenda, or figuring out what to do differently next time: go ahead and leave a comment or send me a message. I want you to take your meetings to the next level because odds are…I’ll be in one some day 🙂