We all know that. Meetings are boring. Meetings disturb us from work. Meetings are usually a waste of time. There may be a lot of reasons. Bad facilitator. No preparation. Long duration. Nothing to look at. Too many people. Disrupting people. But there is one mutual factor. The goal of the meeting. The key success factors for boring meetings are:
- Not knowing the goal
- Not being aligned with the goal
- Seeing that you are not moving towards the goal
Long story short – if you know the goal, you care about the goal and you see that you are going to meet the goal of the meeting you will not be bored. Actually not necessarily, but at least not so much. This is the approach I try to teach everybody.
Think and prepare.
There is no universal theorem as for one hour long meeting you should spend two hours by its preparation. But let’s count, I am planning 1 hour long meeting for 5 attendees. I have decided – based on my experience – that 1 hour for preparation of the particular topic is sufficient. I have invested 1 more hour of my time and I had an efficient meeting. If I do not do that, we can expect waste of everybody’s 1 hour on the meeting. So we can count 4 hours saving in total. And 4 hours saving is quite impressive, isn’t it? How to achieve that? We can split it into 3 phases:
Before the meeting
Everything starts with the goal of the meeting. You should realize if the meeting has its purpose and objective. If not, don’t schedule it or ask the one who asks you to schedule it what the meeting purpose, objective or goal should be.
Think about the audience. Try to be lean. Ask yourself who has be to there and who just would like to be there but does not need to be there. Think who must be there and mark them as mandatory. Without them the meeting cannot take place. The others should be optional only. Think about someone who will make official meeting notes if needed.
Usually you try to find a free timeslot within the
calendars. But think about that Monday’s morning and Friday’s afternoon are not
the best timeslots. Quite common recommendation is don’t plan meetings for
Mondays and Fridays. Think about how it works with your company. If everybody
is usually delayed, count with “corporate 5 minutes” and schedule the meeting e.g.
You should have the meeting program – agenda. Simply choose the appropriate meeting forms (presentations, discussion, brainstorming etc…) and put them into logical blocks which you expect to reach the goal.
Do you need some inputs from the participants? Do you need some preparation from them? Write it into the invitation. Don’t use @everybody, because it means @nobody. Use names. Remind it in an appropriate time before the meeting. Otherwise they will not realize they should be prepared until 5 minutes before the meeting takes place.
Tip: If you use Outlook, create the meeting template. By default, it’s blank. Insert there the main points as “Goal:”, “Agenda:”, “Preparation needed:” etc. Start to use it. Create a short “how to” file about setting up the template as default. Spread it to others.
For online meetings make sure that everybody knows how to connect. Try to use camera with all the participants. It will help you to make the meetings more personalized and you can get body language feedback.
For personal or on-site meetings carefully select the meeting room. Glass windows for presenting confidential information? Twelve chairs for feedback meeting in four people? No whiteboard for brainstorming or no projector for presentations? Think about all the technical meeting details to be prepared. Book the room few minutes before the meeting starts so that you can prepare everything and you can be sure that there is no one finishing other meetings in the room.
So far you have prepared everything for others. Now we should start to prepare yourself. Try to go through the agenda, try to think about blind spots, try to think about appropriate meeting rules you will need, try to think about objections people may have. Prepare the necessary materials, prepare the ground rules, prepare stickers, markers, papers, whatever you may need. Don’t expect that if yesterday there was something in the meeting room, today it is the same. Be prepared.
With all the preparation, you will realize that the meeting itself is a piece of cake. Simply because you are prepared.
Being a good facilitator needs a lot of time, feedback and coaching. Anyway, there are few tips:
- Start on time.
- Don’t wait for latecomers. In time, they will learn that you don’t.
- Don’t answer latecomers’ questions about what they missed because they were late.
- Start with basic rules. No laptops or phones if possible. Avoid disruptions.
- Shortly introduce the participants if needed.
- Introduce the meeting objective or goal.
- Ask the participants if they prepared for the meeting what was requested. If not, close the meeting.
- Shortly show the agenda and together with the meeting goal keep it visible during the whole meeting. It will help you follow the direction.
- Shortly explain when and what is expected from the participants.
- Be in charge to help the others to achieve the meeting objective. It does not mean being bossy to be in charge, but to follow adequate and appropriate facilitation techniques.
- If someone tries to start the discussion on topics not leading to the meeting goal, make a sticker on the wall as “to be discussed” on a different meeting.
- If you are faster than the agenda, make the meeting shorter. People will appreciate it.
- Never prolong the meeting.
- Keep enough time to summarize the meeting, go through takeaways or actions.
- Don’t forget to say thank you to the participants.
- Close the meeting five minutes earlier prior to other meetings so that people can join other meetings on time.
After the meeting
First meetings following these rules will not be easy. So I can say “have a drink” after the first try. But seriously, even after the meeting there are necessary steps to be taken. Send the meeting minutes. Send other materials (e.g. photos, presentation…). Send outputs, agreements, takeaways. Send tasks or actions to be performed with specific names and dates. Thank all participants again. And don’t hesitate to ask them for feedback. No email feedback received usually means that it was not so bad to be valuable for people to spend time writing you about it. Congratulations!