Meetings compose a large amount of your work time, but are they time well spent? Efficiency can be increased or decimated by the timing and structure of meetings. Think about the impact multiplier for each participant. Starting an eight person meeting 15 minutes late wastes two hours of work for the organization.
Bad meetings are a drain psychologically. Efficient meetings, on the other hand, save time, help everyone accomplish more, and leave participants feeling energized. We’ve all been there. Ever feel frustrated by the same discussion week after week with no resolution? Contrast that with the excitement and clear ideas after a great brainstorming session.
How do you make each meeting more energizing? Here’s some tips I have gathered from Patrick Lencioni’s book Death by Meeting, Gartner research, Dan Roam’s visual grammar books, Mindtools.com and CIO.com. I use these techniques to get participants thinking visually, promote brainstorming and increase energy. Additionally, I like to add gamification techniques to meetings to make each moment productive.
Think of a meeting as a well crafted performance. It has exposition, rising action, climax or crisis, falling action, and resolution. Like any good performance you must prepare for each meeting. These tips will help for any type of meeting.
According to research by Gartner, there are a select few reasons to hold a meeting:
1. To make a decision
2. To solve a problem
3. To share critical information/training information
4. To celebrate an achievement
Notice that “reports status” was left off of this list? Effective managers use 5 minute stand up meetings or technologies like team message boards (tweet length!) for status. Think of the impact multiplier. The “roll call” method of individually presenting status to the manager while others wait is a major waste of time.
Begin with the outcome
Establish what the meeting should accomplish. You know the meeting objective when you can complete this sentence: “At the close of the meeting, I want the group to _______”.
Meetings by Subject
The most innovative leaders limit their meetings to tightly focused subjects. Digressive topics, even important ones, are not discussed during these meetings. The topic is tabled until the appropriate meeting. Here are four types:
Problem Definition – answers “what, who, how much, when, and why”
Bad news meetings – list issues/problems only. NO solutions are offered during these meetings.
Problem Solving – the “how” (done after the bad news meeting)
Alternative Approaches/Experiments- break out of the current bounds
No Free Riders
They were invited for a reason, so don’t let them get away without contributing! Encourage participation with statements such as “Does anyone have any more ideas to add?”. Practice active listening and summarize comments to elicit discussion. Also, this is where gamification techniques such as whiteboarding and silent brainwriting really shine. These techniques can get more ideas out of 20 minutes of silence than an hour of discussion!
Encourage everyone, even the presenter, to ask questions. This keeps everyone engaged in the meeting and can help the meeting leaders stay focused. Try distributing bingo cards made up of question categories.
Humans are visual as well as verbal thinkers. Even people who “can’t draw” still can benefit from having visual stimulation kick start their thinking. If it’s not your meeting, talk to the meeting leader ahead of time, so they don’t think you are being rude. Dan Roam’s series of books are excellent resources.
Meetings do not always have to be an hour
Accomplish more in shorter meetings by matching meeting content and length. I set my default invite to 30 minutes. In his book, Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni recommends four different types of meetings analogous to the familiar lengths used in television programming. Additionally, these meeting lengths fit very well with agile and portfolio management techniques.
|Meeting Format||Length||Analogy||Agile/Portfolio Management technique|
|Daily Check-In||1-5 minutes||Tweet/News story||Agile Daily Stand up|
|Weekly Tactical||30 minutes||Sit Com||Spint/backlog review|
|Monthly Strategic (or Ad Hoc Strategic)||1 hour||Drama||Project status or portfolio review|
|Quarterly Review (off-site recommended!)||2 hour sessions (multiple)||mini-series||Quarterly budget review, quarterly strategic metric|
Use a consistent, sensible process
Prepare materials in advance and rehearse key points before the meeting
Focus on issues beneficial to group discussion and how the team can resolve them
Avoid solving issues during bad news meetings
Prepare an agenda and stick to it. Include: Priorities, goals, sequence and expected participants
Go directly into the material during the meeting to avoid “ramp up” time.
Summarize at the end
Interactive notes – if you have Google Docs, Office 365 or other collaboration tool, share a document with all participants. Encourage them to add notes, questions and thoughts during the meeting. When the meeting ends you have instant meeting notes!
- NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public or private sector employer, organization or related entity.
Chaeny Emanavin is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.