There are plenty of reasons people dislike meetings. Just ask and you’ll have no trouble getting a long list. But let’s not focus on the negative. Instead of listing the problems with meetings, I’d rather talk about creating better meetings. If you use these four ideas, you will have more effective, more focused, and overall better meetings.
The Four Ideas
Here are the four ideas in question form. Ask the questions and use your answers to ensure better meetings.
Should we meet? If the answer is no – then don’t meet! Plenty of meetings happen because we are used to calling meetings, yet there might be a better answer. What are your other options? You could go talk to people individually, or send an email to share information or ask a question. There are plenty of options to consider, if you just consider them! If you aren’t sure, the answer to the second question will help.
What’s the desired outcome? Have you ever been to a meeting where people weren’t clear on why they were there? Have you ever been surprised by what was being discussed? I won’t even ask if you have been to a meeting that drifted without a purpose. The solution to all these common problems is to have a clearly stated desired outcome. A desired outcome is a statement that describes a successful outcome to the meeting. We recommend writing them as briefly as possible in past tense. When you state the desired outcome as “budget approved,” everyone knows what is happening and how to come prepared. With this clear mission, people will more likely stay on track, and success will be far more likely.
Do we have an agenda? If you want better meetings, publish an agenda when scheduling the meeting. The core of the agenda should be the desired outcome(s), as this allows people to come prepared with both their thoughts and any needed information. The agenda not only helps people prepare for the meeting, it helps keep a meeting on track. Especially when copies of the agenda are available to participants during the meeting.
Who will facilitate the meeting? There is more to any meeting than the what and the why. When you put people together, you must also consider the how. If no one is tending to the process of how the meeting is going, the chances are high there will be rabbit holes, pontification, side conversations, confusion, and more. A facilitator is someone who tends to the meeting process and helps the group stay on task and on purpose. While this can be the leader, it doesn’t have to be. Except in highly skilled and developed teams, unless someone is assigned this role, it likely won’t happen.
When you plan and call the meeting, you have all four of these questions completely in your control. Make sure you answer them. If it isn’t your meeting, use your influence to help the group have better answers to more of these – even if you ask at the start of the meeting to improve the chances the meeting goes well.
These ideas will be one small part of a new course I am creating in conjunction with LinkedIn Learning. When the course is released in January 2020, I will share a link. In the meantime, check out this course on Leading at a Distance I also created for LinkedIn Learning.