Organising another meeting? How can you make sure that it will be effective and meet the objectives? Here’s how you can start having great meetings!
State your objective clearly
Executives spend between one-quarter to one-half of their time attending meetings and many feel that much time spent in these meetings is wasted. There are too much boredom, inefficiencies and missed opportunities.
Clearly stated objectives can improve meetings, as everyone in the room knows why they are there and what they are going to produce from the meeting.
Before creating the meeting agenda, ask why the group is getting together. Be specific. Also, keep the meeting oriented to group problem solving, not to information sharing. Use technology such as e-mail to communicate information before the meeting, or bring in a typed report.
Knowing the objectives has another big benefit: If people are clear about what the meeting’s supposed to accomplish, they will know when the meeting’s over. Many meetings just go on and on and people don’t know when they’re done. But if there’s a clear objective, people realise when to quit.
Show up Prepared
The lack of preparation sucks out productivity. When people aren’t prepared, their speaking style tends to wander. They make stuff up on the fly while they’re searching their memory.
Keep to the Agenda
It’s easy to recognise when a group gets stuck or drift to an unrelated topic. The meeting facilitator needs to end a conversation that’s not going anywhere, re-cap the points that were made, and resolve the issue at a later time, away from the group.
Types of conversations during a meeting
There are four kinds of conversations that can happen at meetings. Identifying the type of conversations during the meeting can help you stir the meeting back on track and to get to the objectives of the meeting.
1. Chit-chat–idle conversation or gossip that doesn’t go anywhere. These are personal talks during meetings that have nothing related to the meeting.
2. Brainstorming–a conversation for possibilities and examining ideas. The danger of this when it goes unsupervised is that it can use up all the time without achieving any stated objectives.
3. Opportunity–a conversation that considers the practical options with the given available resources. Again, this type of conversation is aimed in exploring different options, make sure the group knows what they need to derive to at the end of the conversation.
4. Action–a conversation that identifies decisions and sets them in motion. This is the most important type of discussion as it is action oriented. This type of conversation results in decision-making and forward motion. For effective action discussions, groups have to determine what action needs to be taken, identify who takes it, and set deadlines. It helps to have the group facilitator verbally recognise action items as they are brought up during the meeting.
Some actions where you can implement:
-Don’t engage in side conversations that aren’t clearly audible to every participant.
– Set a trigger so that conversations remain useful to the entire group, not just to one or two people.
– Empower each participant to be responsible for meeting productivity.
– Don’t defer a decision without clearly defining the next step.
– Take a break after 45 minutes to an hour, or attention spans will drift. Enforce a time limit on the break.
– Group agenda items into categories and set time limits on them so that the facilitator knows when time becomes a problem.
– Schedule time for the facilitator to do a verbal review at the end of the meeting that covers group decisions, action items that were assigned and open issues tabled for later discussion.
Keep a social aspect to meetings
During a meeting, people should feel free to offer their opinion, but anyone opposing or criticising an idea should express why so, in order to maintain this open and productive atmosphere. This makes the objecting party accountable for improving the idea–and it helps people to listen more effectively to each other.
Apart from discussing different issues, meetings are also about team building. Try introducing teambuilding exercises on a regular basis during the monthly or weekly staff meetings, where teams are formed to solve problems. Don’t leave it to the annual Christmas party or Golf outing to have a little fun.
Prep up the meeting room
The meeting room is crucial: it can make or break a meeting’s productivity.
When considering the meeting room set-up, remember that while meetings are verbal, about 65 percent of our brain are made up of the visual cortex. If you engage people visually, they will pay attention. Ensure you are equipped with visual aids: clear and interesting presentation slides, a flipchart to facilitate the discussions, everyone can see what is being projected, etc.
Also, the general comfort of the attendees during the meeting is important: a right temperature for the room, comfortable chairs, good lighting… so that the attendees can concentrate on the theme and not get distracted by the environment.