I can’t take it anymore: I hate meetings! Well, I dislike attending poorly-ran meetings. I have been to quite a few in the past few weeks. I hope to save hundreds of meeting attendees from utter boredom with the following top ten tips for running a good meeting.
1. Room Setup – Arrive early and set up your room appropriately. Make sure there are enough tables and chairs with enough space between each for participants to be comfortable. Test your technology (we will touch on technology momentarily). Bring materials to keep your participants entertained. Tactile things (things you use with your hands) make for great props in the meeting space. Lastly, food! You can’t go wrong with food. Either a quick snack and coffee or a full spread will energize your attendees and let them know that you mean business.
2. Introductions – Don’t dawdle and give very specific instructions. “Who are you? What do you bring to the table?” If someone joins late, even a few seconds late, do not start introductions over again. Give the person a moment to introduce himself or herself and get back to business.
3. Agenda – Please provide the agenda beforehand. Your introverts will love you for this approach. Providing the agenda beforehand gives your introverts time to formulate their thoughts instead of having to think of something in the moment (they hate that). Also, by providing the agenda early, you give people a chance to decline the meeting if they see that their presence is not really necessary. Win-win!
4. Stand Up – You, as the presenter, need to stand up. If someone else is going to present, you need to sit down and have them stand up. There is a physical power exchange when someone elevates himself or herself above everyone else’s eye level. The alpha wolf takes a position of power at the front of the pack.
5. Icebreaker – Icebreakers are great in two situations: When you have a room full of complete strangers (I mean complete strangers) and when you have a room full of people exhausted from the day. Don’t be arbitrary with your icebreakers though. Try to connect the icebreaker back to the topic or know your audience well enough to know the appropriate icebreaker.
6. Keep Things Moving – If you have an agenda (see item #3), you can move from one item to the next with intention. Don’t let sidebar conversations go unchecked. Use eye contact or a “go-behind” maneuver to check the conversations. Lastly, acknowledge questions or comments that are completely off-track and immediately add them to the parking lot.
7. Audio/Visual Aids – Go big or go home. Find the room with the biggest presentation and the strongest internet connection. Make sure the person in the farthest corner can see your entire presentation (see item #1). Navigate to the internet. Use videos. Use audio clips. Use a microphone if you can’t project your voice. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, search the Internet for “Gob Bluth magic show.”
8. Take Notes – Make sure you capture any and all relevant information from your participants. If your meeting is specifically geared towards brainstorming or information gathering, you might enlist the help of a scribe. Regardless, don’t let great information go to waste.
9. Parking Lot – The “parking lot” is probably the most productive yet the most underutilized tool in the meeting space. Parking lots are documents that contain ideas and information that allows for others to park their ideas until you’re able to address them. You can either post the parking lot in plain site or let everyone know that you are establishing a parking lot on your laptop or pad of paper.
10. Close – Make things very clear that the meeting has concluded. A simple, “Thank you, everyone. Have a great rest of the day,” should suffice. Before your actual statement, you can even clarify actionable items and establish some clear agreements with the various participants.
On behalf of, well, everyone: Please stop torturing us. Run better meetings.