We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This, Part 2

Marc Mackin meetings

The Eight Steps to a Productive Meeting

In last week’s blog, we discussed how to prepare for a meeting. We talked about things like preparing the presentation and venue in advance, making sure the agenda is in place, and doing a dry run of all the technology needed. You need to do all of this to make a productive meeting.

Now that all the preparations have been made, the next step is to make sure the meeting stays productive and on track. Here’s how you can do just that:

1 – Design the Meeting to Achieve the Outcome you Want

  • One of Stephen Covey’s timeless “7 Habits” says  “Begin with the end in mind.”  This is some of the simplest, soundest advice anyone can give you.  Think backward – “at the end of this meeting, I want to have heard everyone’s points of view, and decided on the new department objectives for the quarter.”  Envision the outcome of the meeting, and then back into what has to happen to get to that result.  The team may have to kick some ideas around (do you need a whiteboard?).  Bob and Andy are going to have opposing ideas – how do we hear from everyone without one person derailing the meeting? (good gatekeepers can help with this!)

2 – Share the Agenda with Plenty of Advance Notice

  • Distribute the agenda and any background materials in advance of the meeting (read: NOT one hour before the meeting).  You can’t hold others accountable to be prepared for your meeting if you’re not giving them the necessary information and instructions.
  • Be very clear about items that will not be discussed.  So many meetings run off the track because they lose focus.  A staff meeting for example is a fine venue to discuss diverse topics (as long as they are valuable to the majority of the people in attendance).  But a budget review and approval meeting is not the place to run through the details of the latest marketing campaign (the budget for the campaign belongs in the meeting, a review of all the cool ads probably doesn’t).
  • Construct agenda items to result in actions, such as decisions, delivery of complete information or approvals.  Using verbs like “Discuss” says that you’re OK if everyone leaves the meeting without a decision or a next action.  One tip is to list agenda items as a question, for example “When will videos be completed?” Your agenda should clearly communicate your focus on outcome.

3 – Control the Size

  • Many folks make one of two mistakes – they either invite everyone to a meeting, or they exclude someone who’s critical to the outcome.  When you take the “more the merrier” approach, your meeting can get out of control due to sheer size.  If someone won’t have any contribution to your outcome, you can update them as a courtesy after the meeting.  They’ll probably appreciate getting back some time on their schedule!
  • We’ll cover details on who to invite to meetings in next week’s blog.

4 – Set the Right Tone

  • Create an open, comfortable environment.  Be clear that the meeting has a start and end time, and a desired objective, but don’t start off sounding like a drill sergeant.
  • Make sure to listen to everyone’s input. If they were important enough to be included in the meeting, their opinion matters.  Use your gatekeeper to keep track so you don’t miss someone.
  • Be willing to be wrong, and be open to different ideas than what you had in mind.  Steve Adubato, broadcaster, author and President of Stand & Deliver once told me, “If you decided something before the meeting, and all you’ve got is a deck of slides that you’re going to read to me, send me a memo and don’t waste my time!”
  • Be sure the participants know their roles in the pursuit of your outcome (see #1 above).

5 – Manage Disrupters

  • We often encounter someone who is particularly adept at derailing an agenda.  Address the disrupter, but don’t let them hijack the meeting.  Make a note of the topic, and let them know you’ll follow up with them after the meeting.  This way they are heard and acknowledged, but you have not given them control of the meeting.  Always keep that outcome clear in your vision.

6 – Control Tangents

  • Similar to the disrupter, the wanderer can accidentally slip down a topical rabbit hole.  If you’re not paying attention, you’re meeting just went down there with them!  Pay attention, get them back on track, and note any topics you may need to cover in another meeting.

7 – Make Careful Transitions

  • As the meeting owner, you are also the choreographer.  The agenda should have a flow to it, as you plan out their journey through topics, discussions, debates and decisions.  You don’t necessarily want it to be a stress-free ride!  Many great decisions are the result of heated debates.  Plan what you can, and be prepared for the unexpected turn in the road.

8 –  Bring the Meeting to a Solid Conclusion

  • Conclude your meeting on time, and give a concise summary of what transpired: decisions, next steps, approvals, rejections, etc.
  • Clearly state who is responsible for any action after the meeting.
  • Depending on the culture of your organization, you may need or want to prepare a summary of the meeting for the participants, your files and any individuals who should be informed of the outcomes of the meeting.
  • Email the steps to all the parties present.

Want to learn more about making your meeting more productive? Contact Facet Solutions at 973-879-3060 or info@facetconsult.com to get started.

Coming next week: How to make sure you’re including the right people in your meeting.