Meetings don’t’ have to be painfully long or disorganized, yet so often we find ourselves in a poorly organized, endless meeting, aching to run out the door…or jump out a window. Even when it’s a topic we’re passionate about, a meeting can feel fruitless if they lack basic structure, organization & support.
A meeting can be short, simple & easy if we follow a few simple ground rules. How we use our time in a meeting has a direct impact on our enjoyment, level of engagement and the quality of our work. Here are some tips for hosting successful meetings:
Best Practices for Meetings
Come Prepared. Prepare beforehand. Create a draft agenda, send it to meeting participants to consent to along with a request for additional agenda items. Encourage each meeting attendant to take individual responsibility for preparing before the meeting.
Keep it Positive. In the Harvard Business Review article “The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations,” Judith & Richard Glaser investigate how positive and negative conversations can have short and long-term effects on the brain. The chemistry of our conversations is directly affected by our “Conversational Intelligence”, or “C-IQ.” Behaviors that cause stress increase cortisol levels, which in turn reduce a person’s C-IQ by affecting their ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. When we’re mindful of our interactions, however, we raise C-IQ as oxytocin, a “feel good” hormone is released.
Record & Review Next Actions. Any time someone volunteers for or accepts a task, make sure it’s recorded in the agenda. At the end of the meeting, leave time to briefly review the list of next actions and clarify questions that might come up.
Finish Early. Nobody enjoys being held captive in a runaway meeting. Going beyond the time everyone agreed upon creates stress. Ending a meeting with stress (see above) is an ineffective way to inspire and move people to action. It’s also a surefire way to make sure there’s not enough time to review next actions or reflect, leaving room for confusion and contributing to lack of communication. Show your respect for people’s time and other commitments, and they’ll leave feeling supported & engaged.
Reflect, Discuss & Improve. Finishing early leaves time to reflect on how the meeting went, discuss what could have been done to improve it and integrate what was learned. This practice is at the core of creating a Lean Team.
Common Meeting Mistakes
Forgetting Murphy’s Law. Just as in daily life, in meetings it’s wise to expect the unexpected and plan for it. Don’t allow your meeting to get derailed, but do leave extra time for unexpected matters to be addressed.
The Remedy: Agree upon the meeting content and Agenda Items before beginning the meeting. Make sure there’s always extra time allotted in a meeting for unexpected material to be addressed. If nothing comes up, you’ll have the joyful experience of finishing a meeting early. Rock on!
Scope Creep. You start out with a set agenda. Everyone agrees on it. Halfway through the meeting, a new topic is brought up. The meeting begins to veer off course…and you realize there’s a whole lot more to discuss. Enter Scope Creep–that special time when the original intention of the conversation is overlooked while a juicy can of worms is opened. Good thing you remembered Murphy’s Law and have a few extra minutes to figure out what to do!
The Remedy: Avoid letting the scope of your meeting grow beyond what’s manageable within the time frame. When a new topic comes up during a meeting, acknowledge the new topic, then use productivity guru David Allen’s “do it, defer it, delegate it or drop it rule to quickly address it. If it will take more time to address than you have spare time for in the meeting, avoid the temptation to immediately “do it” and choose one of the other options instead. Always leave some extra time in a meeting to deal with unknowns that come up, but don’t let them derail the meeting.
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- Meeting Agenda Template
- How to Create a Meeting Agenda
- Tips for Facilitating Successful Meetings