Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Avoid meeting death with these 9 tips

How many times have you been to a meeting not knowing why you are there, spent a few hours in discussion, played buzzword bingo and walked out non-the-wiser as to what will happen next and how the business will move forward? Meetings have been so abused in business there are now several apps which help you calculate the real costs of your meetings.

However, meetings can be extremely valuable means of building trust, forming relationships, enabling focus on a particular challenge and getting people to collaborate to solve a problem. Use them to engage, involve, discuss and discover. Here are some thoughts on how to run Awesome meetings...

1. Plan, Plan, Plan
The secret to good meetings is what happens before and after. Clearly define the purpose, plan the details and ensure you know what you want to have happen as a result of the meeting. If it is just for information sharing consider what other channels exist to communicate and save face time for real engagement.

2. Give everyone something to do
Rather than have one person chair the meeting have a revolving chair so that each person is responsible for keeping the meeting on track. In group work make people assign a time-keeper, facilitator, presenter etc. People don't like doing it but knowing they have a role makes them step up to the task.

3. Engage the senses
We interpret the world through our senses. Good meetings should aim to engage our sensory experience (visual, auditory and kineasthetic are the most common). Get people standing up and moving by having issues/ challenges/ tasks around the room. Use visual images and videos in presentations, avoid too many bullets. Tell stories.

4. Give people time to reflect
We all have different learning styles. Some of us like to get stuck in and do things others like to step back and reflect. Rather than one meeting consider holding two shorter meetings, allowing people time to reflect in between. Allow people time to do their thinking up front (especially important for introverts)

5. Bring a "Plus One"
Bring people who are not related to the team or task into the meeting. They can often bring a fresh perspective.

6. Genuinely involve people
Meetings can often be railroaded by the loudest voice and brainstorming can exclude the reflective, introverted members who have valuable contributions to make. Along with group work consider structured paired work, silent mindmaps (where people write down their ideas on a group worksheet and build on others ideas) and brain train (where each person writes down an idea and passes it to the next who builds on the idea, who then passes it onto the next).

7. Give people homework
The subject of the meeting should not be a secret. Get participants to do some pre-meeting preparation. Give them research or feedback gathering tasks and have them present back in the meeting - formally or in a group.

8. Get feedback
Ask people how they felt the meeting went. You may want to do this anonymously so that people can be honest.

9.  Do what has been agreed
All too often we agree actions and never hear about them again, until the next meeting where the same issue comes up. Allocate enough time during your meeting to agree realistic actions - what will be done, when and by whom. Check that it is achievable - dont just assign a task and hope for the best. Then keep the participants updated at regular intervals on what has and hasn't been done. Be honest.

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