Unexpected ideas for leading productive meetings

When was the last time you left a meeting with that energized feeling of having accomplished something meaningful on an initiative? How many meetings like that have you led in 2015? For many people meetings are considered a waste of time that could be better spent doing "real work." Meetings as a productivity tool have a bad reputation. This is unfortunate because in this digital era, the role of in-person meetings is vital and can be powerful. The challenge is ensuring that the time commitment to meetings is commensurate to value achieved from them. That tension will always be present, so how do we ensure we make every meeting as productive as possible?

How do managers focus on running effective meetings that drive the desired outcomes--usually action?

The first and most critical idea is to make sure you clearly articulate the purpose of the meeting and the roles of the participants. Beyond that basic step, here are seven techniques for leading more productive meetings:

Dress the Room
Stage the room for different types of meetings. Be mindful of the linkage between environment and meeting goals. For example, we arrange the furniture differently depending on whether it's an idea generation - round tables that facilitate conversation - or a presentation - auditorium style seating.

Do Social Media Homework
When meeting new people for the first time, check LinkedIn to identify shared interests and connections. Also, review social media feeds to learn what is top of mind for participants. You can tell a lot about a person from their last 12 tweets. By doing this homework you develop rapport and build trust faster, which leads to getting to more substantial discussions earlier in the meeting.

Agree on a Signal Word
In the context of presentations, before the meeting agree on a signal word that your team members know to use as a signal for help or to indicate handoff in a presentation. It will vary based on the meeting; one example is "interesting." Having this signal in place will ensure a seamless flow and limit tangents.

Use "Yes, And," Avoid "But"
Take a page from improvisational comedy and acknowledge everyone's contribution using the words "yes, and." Eliminate "but" from your meeting vocabulary. "Yes, and" acknowledges contributions, "but" puts people on the defensive. Incorporating positive phrases helps to increase collaboration and encourage people to participate in the conversation.

Consider Walk-and-Talk Meetings
Look to the television show The West Wing for inspiration and consider the walk-and-talk. For micro meetings, getting out of the office to walk and talk builds a new level of rapport and disclosure. Walking together signals a shared journey to a common destination and a collaboration mindset, and it's always healthy to get on your feet and out of your office.

Know When To Say No

You don't need to attend every meeting you've been invited to. Don't go to a meeting just to show up. Instead, be selective in your attendance, only going to meetings where your attendance can help move the agenda forward. Seek clarification on the purpose and roles before you commit to dedicating your time and contribution. Take the same stance when considering your attendee list for meeting you lead. And come prepared.

What techniques have you found to drive effective meetings? Tweet me @MargaretMolloy