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3 Ingredients of a Great Meeting

3 Ingredients of a Great Meeting

Despite the rampant complaints about meetings that waste time and squander resources, the problem of too many poorly-designed and poorly-run meetings persists.

An agenda isn’t the answer…

The solution to bad meetings that has been touted for years has been to create an agenda. Except, even with an agenda, a meeting can still be a waste of time and resources.

Why? Because far too many meeting agendas are simply a laundry list of topics rather than a well-thought-out design that actually produces a meaningful result.

Yet, while meetings continue get a bad rap, the time we spend with our colleagues is in fact one of the most significant and important investments we make in our organizations. After all, how can we possibly strategize about our future, innovate, collaborate, plan, or solve problems if we don’t actually meet with each other?

And while it may unfortunately be rare, we have all experienced a meeting that mattered — one that made a difference in the future, solved a problem, increased clarity and focus, got people on the same page about how to move forward, etc.

Can meetings really be a productive use of time?

The question to ask is not whether to have meetings. The question we should be asking ourselves is: how do we make sure each and every meeting actually matters? By matter, I mean that it makes a meaningful difference and is worth the investment for both the individuals participating and the organization investing the resources.

The 3 ingredients of a great meeting…

1. Design with the end in mind.

It never ceases to amaze me how people will put an agenda together for a meeting before asking themselves what they want to accomplish first. The “we need to get everyone together, what do we want to talk about?” approach to a meeting agenda leaves out the most important elements of a great meeting design — WHY and WHAT.

WHY it is important that this group of people meet at this moment in time is essential context for any gathering. Your “why” sets the context for determining not only what the meeting is about, but more importantly, WHAT you must accomplish in your time together for the investment to be worthwhile for everyone involved.

Meetings are a great opportunity for any leader to ensure they are being strategic. If you want to have a great meeting you need to design it with the end in mind based on why you are gathering and what you intend to accomplish.

2. Engage everyone in owning the outcome(s) of the meeting.

Participating in a meeting someone else designed can be a very passive experience. It can be incredibly frustrating to have to attend a meeting that someone either didn’t design well or isn’t facilitating well. Yet most people will sit and suffer without speaking up, simply waiting for the meeting to be over.

If you want a great meeting, however, you need active participants, not passive passengers along for the ride. When you design a meeting with the end in mind, you bring with you a clear commitment to a set of outcomes. Ask everyone who is participating to own those outcomes with you, and they will actively participate with you to achieve success.

3. Talk about the things that truly matter (even if they aren’t on the agenda).

When you have clear outcomes, and have established an expectation of active participation, you increase the likelihood that you will actually talk about the things that matter. No matter how much thought you might have given to designing the conversations you need to have to achieve your desired outcomes, it is possible you missed something or the order you planned doesn’t make sense.

By staying focused on the outcomes, you can work together with everyone in the meeting to ensure you have the conversations that you need to have, regardless of whether they are on the agenda. An agenda with topics and timelines is important to start with, but remember it is a guide. Be flexible, and make decisions regarding the agenda based on the intended outcomes, rather than sticking to the agenda. Some topics will take less time than you planned, and others may take more. Allow for the important conversations to be had fully, and move quickly with or eliminate conversations you see won’t contribute to the outcomes.

A successful meeting is measured based on progress made, not based on how many agenda items are covered or how well you stuck to the timeline for each topic.

Designing and facilitating great meetings is an exercise in being strategic. It is also an opportunity to elevate your leadership. By giving your meetings the strategic attention required for them to be worthwhile, you ensure you make the most of your most important investment — the investment in your people. You also demonstrate that you value both them and their time.

 

Image Copyright: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

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