5 Ways to Make Meetings Matter

How to have more effective meetings

We’ve all been there. Iron-bottomed meetings, lasting hours, lacking focus, accomplishing little but drowsiness.

Regular business meetings can be a source of dread if not designed and managed properly. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. A well crafted meeting can be a source of inspiration, motivation, and collaboration.

So how do you create a meeting that will  not only accomplish something (the whole point anyway), but will make participants actually look forward to the regular gatherings?

Following are 5 tips to consider when planning your next meeting:

1) Decide if you really need the meeting at all.

Just because it is on the calendar doesn’t mean it is actually important or valuable. If you cannot articulate to yourself exactly what the value in the meeting is, and some specific goals you want to accomplish, do your people a favor and cancel it. This will do two great things for you. 1) it will save everybody precious time away from important work, and 2) it will show your people that you are serious about productivity. Cutting unnecessary meetings sends a great message. Also, when you do set a meeting, your folks will know it really means something.

2) Set clear goals (and publish them).

Make a bulleted list of goals for every meeting. “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time” is a cliche for a reason; it is true. Setting goals for the meeting tells participants there is a reason to be there and that it is time to focus. Publish the goals of the meeting beforehand so people can think about them before they get there. Then, instead of taking a bunch of time to think about things in the meeting, you can talk about solutions.

3) Set a time frame.

And stick to it. If the meeting is an hour long, darn it, be walking out the door in an hour. Once word gets around that your meeting times are enforced, watch what happens. Participants will focus and participate. Again, they know it is time to play ball. Also, if you tell workers that a meeting will last a certain time and it goes long, you have just told a little lie to your people. This undermines your trustworthiness. Do not do this.

4) Develop procedures.

Think of this as a meeting culture. What are the rules? Do people take turns speaking or are they allowed to talk over each other? Are they able to get up and mingle around the room, collaborating and visualizing, or is it more of a round robin affair? For problem solving meetings, I recommend the book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono. Whatever you prefer, you need clear behavioral expectations for your meetings. They will be more ordered and efficient.

5) Ask questions.

If you are the leader, don’t do all the talking. Asking questions of participants and listening to the answers shows them their value to your business and also keeps them interested and thinking. Nothing builds enthusiasm for and ownership of a meeting like genuine collaboration. So ask people for help and they are much more likely to give it.

Meetings don’t have to be a bore or a waste. They can add to your company culture, build cohesion and enthusiasm in employees, and accomplish vital business tasks. Follow these tips, and here’s to happy meetings!

Thanks for reading.

Do you have any other ideas for improving meetings? Please share with us!

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