This post focuses on how you can rock your next meeting.
We’ve all been there. The meeting that drones on and on; the meeting where everyone sits fiddling with his or her smartphone; or the meeting where almost everyone in the room is wondering the same thing: Why am I even here?
Even worse, you arrive on time only to have the meeting start 10 minutes late. The agenda? Unclear. The person in charge? Also unclear. Some people start to offer ideas, others shoot them down. Nothing is really decided and the meeting wraps up, as you silently lament the lost hour. There must be a better way.
Meetings fill an increasing number of hours in the workday, and yet most employees consider them a waste of time. According to a survey of U.S. professionals by Salary.com, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer.
But there are ways to run effective, efficient meetings that leave your employees feeling energized and excited about their work. Here are eight steps to rock your next meeting:
Step 1: Ask Yourself, Do You Need a Meeting?
Ensure that a meeting is an appropriate vehicle for accomplishing your goals. To schedule and hold a meeting is expensive when you account for the time of the people attending, so make efforts to determine that a meeting is the best opportunity to solve the problem, improve the process or make an ongoing plan.
You may find that you can accomplish the meeting goals with an email discussion. Make sure the meeting is needed and not just more convenient for you, You’ll get better results from your meeting attendees when you’ve truly taken stock of their needs.
Step 2: Identify the Type of Meeting
Google highlights this list of the 6 Types of Meetings by MeetingSift as the definitive list. It’s very similar to many of the other lists out there.
- Status Update Meetings
- Information Sharing Meetings
- Decision Making Meetings
- Problem Solving Meetings
- Innovation Meetings
- Team Building Meetings
Step one helps you to identify the intent or objective of the meeting. Setting clear goals in the beginning will provide you with a roadmap or plan to express the meeting’s purpose or desired outcome.
As Stephen Covey says in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” Your meeting purpose will determine the meeting focus, the meeting agenda and the meeting participants you need to accomplish the purpose.
Step 3: Define Your Target Audience
Now that your goals have been set and the type of meeting has been identified, you will have a clearer idea about who you need to invite to participate.
Step 4: Develop a Meeting Agenda
It may seem like an obvious requirement, but a lot of meetings start with no clear sense of purpose. The meeting’s agenda can be summarized on a handout, written on a whiteboard or discussed explicitly at the outset. But everyone should know why they’ve gathered and what they’re supposed to accomplish. The agenda provides a compass for the conversation, so the meeting can get back on track if the discussion wanders off course.
Step 5: Distribute and Review Pre-Work Prior to the Meeting
How many meetings have you attended that started out with the meeting facilitator passing out a ream of handouts or projecting a Microsoft PowerPoint slide for discussion? Frustrating? You bet. The meeting becomes a group read-in, hardly productive for goal accomplishment.
You can make meetings most productive and ensure results by providing necessary pre-work in advance of the actual meeting. Providing pre-work, charts, graphs and reading material 48 hours before a meeting affects meeting success. The more preparation time you allot, the better-prepared people will be for your meeting.
Documentation that will help you achieve the meeting goals can include reports; data, charts and status reports, or Microsoft PowerPoint slides that illustrate key discussion points.
Pre-work – even just links to read the information distributed in a timely manner, with the serious expectation that attendees will read the pre-work before the meeting – helps ensure that your meeting succeeds.
Step 6: Be an Effective Facilitator
The meeting leader or facilitator or chair sets a positive, productive tone for interaction among the meeting participants. Effective meeting facilitation starts with a review of the goals, or anticipated outcomes, and the agenda. The facilitator helps attendees stay focused and productive.
To ensure rich conversation, it is important to have questions prepared that are opened-ended, with no particular answer implied. Starting questions with “how” or “why” or “what” is a good way to get participants talking. An effective facilitator, who keeps participants on track, ensures the accomplishment of expected, desired results from the meeting.
Step 7: W.W.D.W.B.W (Action Plan)
Leave the last few minutes of every meeting to discuss the next steps. This discussion should include deciding who is responsible for what, and what the deadlines are. Otherwise, all the time you spent on the meeting will be for naught.
Mark Toro, managing partner of North American Properties- Atalanta, a real estate operating company, uses a phrase to end meetings that has become a common acronym in office e-mails: W.W.D.W.B.W., which stands for “Who will do what by when?”
Step 8: Build a Culture of Collaboration
Meetings are a great way to cultivate a culture of collaboration. Encouraging collaboration will lead to achievement of your meeting goals. There are several tools you can incorporate in your meeting which all promote higher collaboration between the meeting attendees. With these tools, you are able to run collaborative meetings anywhere, anytime:
- Screen sharing
- Document sharing
- Mobile Dial-in
If you feel the steps provided are difficult to remember, then I suggest memorizing the four F words: Facilitate, Follow-Up, Formulate and Finalize.
- Facilitate. Take responsibility for overall meeting logistics; play the facilitation role.
- Follow-up. Synthesize the discussions and decisions from the meeting.
- Formulate. Draft and iterate on agenda and materials for the next meeting.
- Finalize. Finalize the content, action plan and facilitation plans for the next meeting.
What are your must haves for a successful meeting?
For more reading on rocking your meetings, check out these resources:
Ashley Cabral is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.