Principles for Effective Meetings

Last week I discussed why effective meetings are so important, today I'd like to expand on that by providing some principles for making your meetings more effective.

Before you lead/engage in a meeting, ensure you:
  • Can take at least one decision; if you are having a meeting solely to share information, consider whether you can share that information another way.
  • Create a setting for success. There are five critical questions to be clear on;
    • Purpose; why are we spending our valuable time together?
    • Outcomes; what does success look like?
    • Decisions; what do we need to decide?
    • Questions; what are the questions we need to answer while we are together?
    • Impact; how do I/we want people to feel at the end of this meeting?
  • Circulate key content for the meeting well in advance; otherwise, people will spend their time in the meeting reading and reacting under pressure, rather than providing considered insights and suggestions.
  • Limit the number of attendees. Every member of a meeting should ask themselves;
    • Why am I really attending (contribution, habit, lack of trust, control, other)?
    • What is my specific contribution to the meeting?
    • Can I provide my input in advance and catch up on the outcomes afterward?
During the meeting, ensure you:
  • Set standards for the meeting; agree them at the start and measure them at the end to encourage the behaviors that you need to be successful.
  • Focus on "So what" and "Now what"; effective meetings spend no more than 15% of the time in "What" (description of the problem, issue or challenge at hand), up to 70% in "So what" (the insights, meaning and potential implications of the situation), leaving only 15% needed for "Now what" (the actions and next steps).
  • Work through a natural hierarchy of questions; structure the meeting from biggest to smallest question so that you build momentum from one decision to the next and avoid doubling back. For example, asking "what is the best strategy?" should follow "what is the outcome we want?"
  • Have rules for technology; use electronic gadgets to enable outcomes, not to divert or distract people from the agenda.
  • Lead with energy and end on schedule; with too much time, even the most unshakable decision will be reconsidered.
  • Agree next actions, responsibilities and messages; these basic disciplines encourage material outcomes from the meeting, and positively affect those downstream.

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