What is it about meetings?
The mere mention of the word can send team members into fits of apoplexy or cause them to descend into resigned despair. Instead of viewing meetings as an opportunity to spend time together and work collectively toward a shared goal, now they’re frequently considered an institutional waste of time.
It’s no wonder meetings are despised, when they sometimes become two-hour wanders through topics of questionable relevance that could have been shared more efficiently via electronic communication. The trend toward inefficiency and irrelevance only reinforces the opinion that any and all meetings should be avoided and the mere mention of their existence removed from the business vernacular.
The Components of a Great Meeting
Because we can’t simply eliminate meetings, leaders must ask themselves if the meetings within their organization are serving the intended purpose of moving the mission and vision forward. Leaders often assume they are familiar with and skilled at determining the best use of time in a gr\
oup environment. However, making meetings engaging and meaningful requires the same investment of time and energy as building leadership capacity in other areas.
When planning a great meeting, you need to take several factors into account:
1. A high level of relevance
No meeting should ever occur without a clear agenda and the desired outcome that can be directly linked, by all who attend, to their specific work. Effective meetings are highly relevant meetings. Carefully determine the number of attendees and limit the group to those who will derive the most value from the meeting. This is an oft-ignored factor.
If the topic of your meeting isn’t highly relevant to all in attendance, you’ve immediately called into question the value of your team’s time.
2. A streamlined agenda
When creating the agenda for a meeting, apply a filter to any item that is simple dissemination of information. If there are topics where a consensus can be reached prior to the meeting, pursue that consensus and eliminate the task from the agenda. If you have more than three to five items on your agenda, the likelihood you’ll receive the highest level of focus from each team member begins to diminish considerably.
3. Effective interactions
As a rule, most meeting attendees are happy to give their opinions if they know their engagement will add authentically to intended outcomes. When icebreakers and other activities don’t connect directly to team members’ work, they’re more likely to lose focus, reducing productivity.
Keep a theme of authenticity. This is the single strongest meeting strategy for keeping levels of participation and engagement high In a professional environment, gimmicks and stunts rarely have staying power.
4. Purposeful use of time
You’re sending a poignant message when you respect or disregard the value of your group’s time. Great meetings have firm beginning and end times! A well-run meeting is intentional about respecting participants’ time.
When meetings end earlier than expected, it’s universally appreciated. Planning to end meetings five to seven minutes early creates a perception with your team that their time was efficiently invested and they’ve received a small bonus of time.
5. A meaningful outcome
Even the most engaging, well-planned, and efficient meeting will come under scrutiny if its work is not directly linked to a meaningful outcome. Before building your agenda, consider what communications will follow and which metrics you’ll share with participants. Allowing them the opportunity to see the results of their contributions acts as an authentic affirmation, keeping them engaged.
Change Is Possible!
We can realize a significant change in the way meetings are perceived. It requires regularly:
- Implementing a pattern of thoughtful preparation
- Prioritizing an efficient use of time
- Achieving a direct connection to the purpose of your organization
Holding yourself to the highest standard in this area has far-reaching implications. When you’re intentional about using time efficiently in meetings, you demonstrate that a well-planned use of time is an expectation throughout your organization.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.