Meetings. A practice that’s become almost a swear word for some. We know that it’s important to get together and collaborate to make decisions or plan a strategy, but the reality is that we just don’t seem to be good at managing meetings. Often they ramble on, going off-course into the corporate hinterland. We’re often not even sure what the meetings are about it in the first place.
As an organisation moves towards a more agile way of working, scheduled meetings tend to become less important as people communicate more freely and organically amongst each other. But if you’re part of an organisation that isn’t quite there yet, the least you can do is improve the meeting experience.
Here are some basics you should be getting right:
1) Establish the ground rules
What’s the first thing everyone does when they sit down around the table? Open their laptops and start typing away. What’s the purpose of having a meeting if no-one is engaged? Yes, I know people say they’re taking notes, but the urge to be distracted by that urgent email that just popped into you inbox is just too strong. I’ve said many times before that we can’t multitask, so don’t allow it in meetings. The reason you’re getting everyone together in the first place is to talk about a specific issue that you all need to be involved in, so ensure that everyone is actually in FULL attendance.
Other ground rules you can establish could be who is allowed to speak when, how we resolve conflict, ‘talking stick’ practices, or specific ways of starting and ending the meeting.
2) Have a clear purpose
It sounds so obvious, but I know we’ve all been in meetings that just don’t seem to have a point. You must have a clear reason for having the meeting, specifically, what outcome you want when it’s over. If you don’t know what this is, don’t schedule the meeting.
3) Have a plan to get to the purpose
It’s all well and good understanding what you want to get out of the meeting, but often the path to that outcome is littered with obstacles. A well thought out plan of the steps and discussions you need to have will keep you focused. Walking through this plan a few times beforehand will make you more confident and less likely to be thrown off-guard by curveballs and potentially lose control of the meeting.
4) Facilitate like your life depends on it
Now that you’ve got a clear goal and you’ve made a plan, make sure you facilitate it properly. When you spot the discussion is going off track from the plan, you must quickly bring it back on track. People can often take the conversation off in another direction, and will even sabotage your meeting if you’re not careful! Sometime’s it’s not intentional (those people that love the sound of their own voices) but sometimes it is (power play and people with their own agendas) and can be very destructive. You’ve got to keep that in check. Remember that you’re not there to fan anyone’s egos but rather to get to a suitable outcome.
These 4 practical measures can be the difference between boring, wasteful and expensive sessions and refreshing valuable ones.