Sunday, June 4, 2017

17 Strategies To Make Meetings More Effective

Most employees feel many meetings they attend are a waste of time but they don’t need to be. There are strategies you can implement as well as pitfalls you can avoid to help ensure your meetings are interesting, informative, productive and achieve desired outcomes.  

Coaching Psychologist Yaron Prywes (@Yaron321) conducted a full-day workshop revealing the secrets to successful meetings so that they don’t resemble the comic below.

To follow are elements you should consider as you
  • “P”lan for your meeting
  • “E”ngage participants, and
  • “P”ost meeting implementation

Strategies to “PEP” up your meetings:


Strategies / Examples
Determine Necessity
Determine if this meeting is “really” necessary? Before scheduling a meeting think about if there is another way to accomplish your goal.  
If you’re just looking for input you may be able to create a Google doc, sheet, or have participants complete a survey. Maybe you can gather a sub-group to address the issue. If you are just sharing information maybe you could simply send an email, video, or an Office Mix where you have video embedded in slides.
Participants should know what to expect before arriving. What do you hope to accomplish. How should they prepare for the meeting?
Could be an email or call to let folks know about expectations and hoped for outcomes.
Example: A manager is hoping to get consensus on creation of a group calendar for events. Discuss with participants prior to identify any roadblocks, concerns, and how to best proceed.
Meeting Goals & Objectives
Participants should know in advance why they are at the meeting.
Indicate goals and objectives in the agenda i.e. At the close of the meeting, the group will...

  • Make a decision about…
  • Generate ideas about..
  • Know the status of each project
  • Have information about
  • Be ready to begin planning a workshop about…
Meeting Type
Know the type of meeting you are conducting and that for some meeting types (i.e. informational), a meeting may not really be what is required.
Meeting Types -Wageman 2016
  • Informational - just sharing the information
    • 15 minute stand up meetings - keeping in short
  • Consultative - Giving advice
  • Coordination - What I do will directly affect you.  Sharing information that will directly affect meeting participants.
  • Joint Decision - Making decisions together
  • Collective Work - Together (shrum) we will work to accomplish something.
Participant Purpose
Participants should know what is expected of them in advance of the meeting. There should be an opportunity for participants to inform the meeting organizer if they feel their presence is not necessary.
Team members can’t participate effectively if they don’t know whether to simply listen, give their input, or be part of the decision making process. Prior to the meeting, let them know in advance if participants are expected to make a decision, provide input, or simply listen to information (in which case a meeting may not be needed). seek input, or make a decision.

Strategies / Examples
Every meeting should have an agenda. Send the agenda in advance of the meeting, ideally with the calendar invite.
Having an agenda may seem like an obvious step, but the devil is in the details such as the following:
  • Include on the agenda, the meeting purpose
  • Create a timed agenda
  • Indicate who is responsible for each part of the meeting
  • Consider listing agenda topics as questions rather than items. This enables team members to better prepare for discussion and determine whether they are on track.

Read this article from Harvard Business Review for more tips on effective agendas.

Slides and Other Materials
Provide slides and other materials in advance.
Too often slides and materials are shared after the presentation. This is old-school thinking where the meeting organizer must be the controler of information. If you provide materials in advance rather than worrying about taking notes on and try to remember what you share, participants can make meaning and engage.
Assign roles, but be aware that there is a cost to roles i.e., if you’re taking notes you may not be able to participate as well. Also certain types of people are better at certain tasks than others.
Indicate role on the agenda.
  • Timekeeper
  • Moderator / Facilitator
  • Notetaker
  • Whiteboarder – keeps a visual representation of the discussion in front of the group (using flip charts, whiteboard or blackboard)  
  • Parking Lot Attendant - If items are not on topic, this person places them in the parking lot and can assist in ensuring topics are addressed.
Comfort / Relationships
Ensure participants are comfortable.
Have an icebreaker that gets participants ready for the meeting. Think about how the meeting will affect participants. Will it motivate them? Build trust?
Norms / Rituals
Establish norms/rituals so participants know what to expect and to help establish community.
  • Healthy snacks
  • A signal to begin.
  • A strategy for participation i.e. person holding a ball. Start and end on time
  • Avoid distractions i.e. cell phones on silent
Ensure participants have an opportunity for their voices to be heard.
Meetings should have a moderator who does their best to ensure equal / appropriate airtime.
Early engagement
Participants want to be engaged.
A standard ice breaker is one way to get participants interacting, engaged, and aware of something interesting about one another.  
Stay on track
Set up systems to adhere to the agenda / topics.
  • Have a timekeeper to help stay on track. Ensure the moderator / facilitator is reminded of where everyone is on the timed agenda.
  • Point appropriate topics to the parking lot.  

Strategies / Examples
Summary of the meeting.
Send to participants following the meeting. This should be sent within a day of the meeting taking place.
Follow through on action items
Identify actionable items and who is responsible.
Ensure meeting participants know what they are responsible for and by when it should be completed.
Incorporate Improvements
Reflect on how future meetings can be improved.
What worked? What didn’t work? What are some ways the meeting can be improved in the future?
Plan for next meeting
Come up with a structure or strategy to plan for the next meeting.
Are there next steps? How will they be incorporated into the next meeting? Can an agenda be shared in advance where participants can give feedback and suggest agenda items?

So what do you think? Are there strategies here that you might implement, or stay away from? Are there any strategies that stand out that you haven't done but want to try to incorporate in the future? Anything missing? Anything you disagree with? Please share in the comments.

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