8 Steps to Meaningful Meetings

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One of the chief complaints we hear from new clients is the need for more meaningful meetings.  Any meeting can be improved by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Preparation – Write an agenda of your topic items, and send out the agenda ahead of the meeting.  Encourage participants to come ready to discuss the agenda topics only.  This will help the team stay on task.
  • Facilitation – Bring in an objective facilitator to run the meeting.  This person should not be directly impacted by the outcome of the meeting, and should be completely impartial.  Objectivity will help the facilitator keep the team on task.
  • Room Layout – The way the room is set up can affect the level of participation within the group.  Be sure that seating is arranged so that everyone can see everyone else, and the hierarchy of the team is de-emphasized.  The classic U-shape seating arrangement works well, with the facilitator taking up the empty space.
  • Timing – Be sure that the meeting starts and ends on time.  One way to do so is to start the meeting at ten minutes past the hour, rather than on the hour.  The facilitator’s job is to keep the team on task, and end the meeting on the agreed upon time, rather than letting it drag on and run the risk of losing the attention of participants.  In addition, the facilitator should keep track of the amount of time that team members discuss a topic.  In order to keep on task, some individuals may have to be given a time limit, in order to prevent them from dominating the meeting.
  • Icebreaker – Start the meeting with an activity that gets attention, breaks the tension, and sets participants up to work together in a productive way.
  • Off-topic ‘parking lot’ – Inevitably, someone in the group will bring up a topic that is not part of the agenda.  These ‘off-topics’ may be important, but should not derail the forward momentum of the meeting.  Keep a ‘parking lot’ for off-topics that need to be dealt with at another time or in another meeting.  This gives due credence to the needs of individuals within the group, while still keeping with the goals of the meeting.
  • Minutes of the Meeting – Have someone keep track of the ideas and action steps that come out in the meeting.  After the meeting, this person should immediately email a recap of the meeting, and make sure that all participants have a written record of what happened, and what happens next.
  • Follow up – facilitator should check in with team members and let them know the outcomes of the meeting, as well as keeping them on track with their assigned action steps.

Effective work teams require productive meetings and strategy sessions.  By following a few easy steps, any meeting can be improved, and a positive outcome can be assured.