I have to admit that my first inclination in writing a title to this piece was “Meetings that don’t suck the life from your brain and leave you wanting to bang your head on the table”, but that title was too long and may get me in trouble. But I am sure I am not alone (unfortunately) in the sentiment, or the all-too-often experience of being stuck for HOURS in a meeting that goes nowhere and feels like complete torture.
One of the reasons I started my own business was to spend more time adding value, and less time in dead end corporate meetings. But after years of being a business owner and working with business owners, I realize that this problem has not gone away. It has just taken other forms. Instead of big team meetings in a conference room, it might be phone calls with prospects or vendors, or Skype meetings with developers on a web project. The end result is the same – nothing seems to get done with precious time and opportunity cost wasting away.
So, I decided to create a one-page cheat sheet to ensure that my meetings were at least not part of the problem. Spend 3-5 minutes filling this out and your meetings are much more likely to be productive and energizing for all participants.
- What is the Purpose of this Meeting? This is honestly THE most important question to have clear in everyone’s mind. What do you want to walk away with at the end of the meeting? Buy-in? A plan? A decision? Communication of important information? Put it in writing and give it to everyone in advance so that you at least begin with the end in mind.
- Stick to a time schedule and agenda. The minute you start or end late, it gives the signal to all members that time (yours and theirs) is not that important. Very quickly, members will arrive late, leave early, check out during the meeting or not participate at all. If you clearly stick to the goal, agenda and time, you will get in turn get respect and an effective team.
- Set up Ground Rules. Each person enters a meeting with his own agenda, and pre-conceptions. Setting up Ground Rules first thing allows each person to “reset” and get to the task at hand. It also gives you the power to get things back on track – you get to point to the rules and not the person.
- Who needs to be there? You need a meeting facilitator and a scribe. After that, who really needs to be in the meeting in order to accomplish the goal you set in Step 1? If someone is only needed for a part of the agenda (such as approval or an update), invite her for just a portion of the meeting.
- Put it in writing. Document the purpose and your agenda. During the meeting, note resources needed and next steps. Additional ideas or discussions that may be valuable but not part of this specific meeting can be entered into a “parking lot”.
- Have a follow-up process. What happens as a next step? What will be the follow up to ensure that the commitments members made will actually get done. Leave a few minutes before the end to make sure that is clear and on everyone’s calendar.
Click here for a copy of SCORE’s Succcessful Meeting Guide.