We spend a lot of time in meetings. In fact, the average American worker will participate in 62 meetings this month. Unfortunately, despite the incredible time demand of these meetings, the vast majority of meeting schedulers and facilitators don’t really think through how to get the most of out this precious and expensive time.
You, however, do. You want to make sure that you maximize the value delivered from meetings. You want to ensure that ideas are discovered, information is uncovered, and decisions are made. And to help you on that noble quest, we’ve gathered twelve not-so-standard tips from experts across many different industries to help you make the most of your next meeting.
1. Break the Ice
– Justing Hong, Dapper & Done
I have led a bunch of meetings in the past, and one strategy that I put in place to help us have better meetings is to start (some of) them off with an “icebreaker” type question (e.g. What’s your favorite vacation spot? What’s your favorite movie? What’s your biggest pet peeve?).
Rather than diving straight into the agenda topics of the meeting, by starting off a meeting with this type of “icebreaker,” it increases the energy in the meeting, gets everybody involved, and as a byproduct, also helps you find out more about the people on your team.
2. Check Tech at the Door
– Pamela Schott, Schott Communications
Cell phones, tablets and other portable devices (Apple watches, anyone?) can have a crippling effect on any meeting’s success. And that’s understandable. After all, when was the last time you resisted the urge to check a text or email as soon as it came it? But distractions such as these not only interrupt the continuity of a meeting; they also make it difficult for meeting organizers to ensure that what they’re there to communicate actually gets through. The solution? Check tech at the door, and let all participants know beforehand that personal devices won’t be allowed in the meeting (this includes laptops). Will you get push back? Of course. But hold your ground, and watch how much more smoothly — and effectively — meetings are conducted as a result.
3. Stand Up
– Stefan Mancevski, JobHero
Having long meetings can become a mental strain on everyone involved. The best way to instill a sense of urgency is to make all participants a bit physically uncomfortable. Running a stand-up meeting allows you to turn a meeting into a short and efficient affair.
Physical discomfort drives meeting participants to speak more concisely and get to the point faster in an effort to get the meeting over with. Furthermore, research shows that running a stand-up meeting creates more fruitful results because standing “boosts the excitement around creative group processes and reduces people’s tendencies to defend their turf”.
4. Or Walk Around
– Marcey Rader, MarceyRader.com
Businesses should encourage walking meetings with their colleagues and/or clients if the meeting is 3 or less people. Walking meetings increase creativity and encourage conversation and collaboration. They reduce the intimidation factor and reduce the hierarchy of sitting across from each other at a table. Participants are more likely to share true insights and feelings when walking side by side. In addition, you are getting off your butt and preventing glute amnesia from sitting all day.
5. Fast and Efficient
– Jason Parks, The Media Captain
All of our internal meetings are held to 15-minutes or less. We realized how much time can be wasted during meetings. When we meet for a short timespan, we get straight to the point and have laser focus energy.
Directly after the meeting, if there are action items that came from the meeting, we try and send off an email as soon as possible with action items.
6. Have a Purpose and Be Deliberate
Ask yourself if it’s appropriate to have a meeting, or if there are other means available to solve the problem. A good question is, “What’s the GOAL of the meeting?” Fill in this blank: At the end of the meeting we will have ___________.” As the meeting planner, after answering the question about the goal of the meeting, the next rule of an effective meeting is to have an agenda. Consider putting time limits, or at least guidelines, on each topic, and assigning a timekeeper and minute-taker at the meeting. Also, the minutes should be published, preferably in the body of an email, not as an attachment (it increases the likelihood that they will get read, or at least skimmed). This gives an opportunity to take a discussion off-line if necessary, keeps everyone on-track, and collects all the ideas and comments that come out of the meeting.
The effectiveness of every meeting depends, lastly, on three critical questions posed at the end, and recorded in the minutes:
- WHAT’S the next action?
- WHO is responsible?
- WHEN is the due date?
Having these questions and answers recorded in the minutes creates accountability through publicity. It’s much easier to miss a deadline when no one knows you have it. When it’s a public deadline, people are much more likely to meet it.
7. Brainwalks and Worst Ideas
– Bryan Mattimore, The Growth Engine Co.
1) Do a brainwalk. Set up flip chart paper around the room, and have teams of two write down ideas to a specific challenge. Then have teams rotate (in a kind of idea volleyball) to their neighbors’ stations adding new ideas. Rotate several more times. Then go back to the their original “ideation station” and circle their favorite ideas (including their own ideas.) Group as a whole then discusses and builds on these favorite ideas.
2) Do the “worst idea” technique.” Instead of asking the group to come up with good ideas, have the group intentionally create 15 -20 bad ideas: Ideas that are stupid, ridiculous, politically incorrect and/or absurd. Then have the group turn several of these bad ideas into good ones by either a) doing the opposite, or b) asking if, despite how bad the idea is, if there is anything they can take out of the idea/use to inspire a good idea. This is a fun exercise that takes the pressure off, and will often lead to surprising creative and useful new ideas.
8. Post-In Notes
– Rob Thompson, TruCore
I have found in my consulting practice that if I really need to pull ideas from a group i need to give them time to think and capture their ideas and then provide a forum for the team to share their ideas. I like to use the post-it notes and have everyone put their ideas together individually and then we group them as a team using some of the overarching themes of what we are looking to accomplish. This allows everyone the chance to have their idea heard so it does not discourage, it also helps in the decision making process to gather all the different ideas from the team to avoid one person’s opinion to take over or control the group, and finally it also makes the job of a facilitator easier since the ideas are on the post-its and already grouped.
9. Conflict is OK
– Mark McMillion, McMillion Leadership Associates
Encourage relevant conflict. Too often, people strive for consensus which leaves fertile ground untilled. In a good meeting, people get fired up arguing their points. The argument must stay on topic, e.g. not go to the your mother dresses you funny kind of commentary, but it takes a little heat to make steel. Martin Luther King said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus. ” Patrick Lencioni has also written extensively about this, but the bottom-line is there should not be a race to consensus. That being said, when the meeting is over, everyone knows the direction and next steps to be taken.
10. Utilize the “3 Part Rule”
– Snezana Pejic, The Etiquette Academy
Organizing the timeline well means using the “three part rule”: allocating one third of the meeting to presentation, second to the opinions and thoughts of the participants, and third to summarizing and concluding the meeting. This is, of course, if the meeting is pertaining to one topic and lasts for about an hour or so. For monthly meetings when several departments meet to share the progress of each department, the “three part rule” should be allocated to each topic.
For example, if we have five departments each department should have 15 minutes of allocated time: 5 to present issues or progress, 5 to get the feedback and 5 to summarize and move on. Additional comments and thoughts can always be shared between individuals after the meeting. The 15-minute time frame might not look like enough time, but it will allow monthly meetings to continue. Many companies postpone or cancel monthly meetings because they tend to go on for so long. As a result participants feel like they are wasting valuable working time to sit at meetings that feel never ending.
11. Right Size the Meeting
– Nancy Bleeke, Sales Pro Insider
Too much time is wasted on meetings that include people, topics, and details that aren’t relevant for THAT meeting. To “right size” the size and content of your meeting:
1. Determine the specific *objective* for the meeting with the outcome desired which includes a specific decision, action, plan, or learning item.
2. Identify who should be a part of the meeting. Each person’s presence should matter, not just so that they are included or not feel left out, but because they have something meaningful to contribute to the meeting agenda and/or are critical to the outcome achieved for the meeting.
3. Determine the amount of time needed to cover the topic and achieve the outcome. 30 and 60 minute timeframes are for the lazy. Maybe it is 40 minutes or 70 – by planning the meeting objective and who is
involved you can be more specific in the meeting time.
12. Manage Towards Outcomes
– Gershon Mader, Quantum Performance
Once the meeting starts, manage toward outcomes, not time allocations. If 30 minutes is allocated to come to agreement for how the team members are going to implement Project X, and the members are agreed in 20 minutes, move on to the next topic. If the conversation is not complete in 30 minutes, but good progress is being made, allocate another few minutes and get closure. Completing the topic will create energy and momentum to address the next item on the agenda.
So there you have it, 12 great ideas to shake up your next meeting. Do you have a crazy tip or weird trick that really spices up your meetings? Let us know in the comments!