At Least 11 More Ideas to Help You Run Effective Meetings

Image of three business professionals dozing in their chairsHaving fulfilled my lifetime quota of attendance at poorly run meetings, I’ve developed a bit of a crusade mentality to guide others on how to run these sessions effectively. This is a follow-on to a recent piece in my New Leader Tuesday series, entitled: 15 Ideas to Help You Tame the Meeting Beast.

Here are my latest top 11 ideas for taming the meeting beast and actually getting something out of these infernal sessions. Readers, if you have some more ideas, tack on your contributions here and we’ll all be a bit wiser.

At Least 11 Ideas to Help You Run Effective Meetings:

1. The most important rule: don’t call a meeting unless you absolutely have no other choice.

2. See number 1 and exhaust all opportunities to wrestle your issues one on one in lieu of calling a meeting.

3. See number 2 and recognize that it’s unlikely that your meeting will lead to a decision or a conclusion. Work those issues through in one-on-one sessions before the meeting.

4. Measure twice, cut once. A meeting’s effectiveness is a direct function of the background preparation of the participants. That’s on you as the meeting organizer. Pre-publish the agenda, describe the issues and identify specifically what you want to talk about during the actual meeting.

5. Learn and use guided discussion techniques such as Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono to minimize the discussion churn that dominates most sessions.

6. Teach your meeting participants to focus on interests, not positions. We argue over positions, we build towards interests.

7. When teams get stuck on a topic, use the re-framing technique to stimulate ideas and discussion. If something is framed negatively, try on a neutral or positive frame and see where the discussion takes you.

8. Ask someone to capture key discussion points in a visual format. I still love flipcharts. Whiteboards work as well. If your room doesn’t have a flip-chart or a whiteboard, don’t hold the meeting there until it does.

9. Five out of every five people will be willing to talk and show you how smart they are. It’s good to work around smart people, just ensure that you drive discussions to capture points and actions. Otherwise, all you are doing is allowing people to contributie to global warming.

10. Not every meeting has to beget another meeting. I checked the rulebook…there’s no requirement that demands this happen. Use the meeting output and encourage people to return to items 1 and 2 above.

11. Rulebook part 2. There’s no rule on requiring a meeting to run its allotted time. Completing a 60 minute meeting in 40 minutes is like winning the psychic lottery. Found time is always good.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

You’ll rarely see or hear the words: “good” and “meeting” next to each other in the same sentence. They are by law, oxymoronic. However, if you must corral your fellow humans in a stuffy room with bad chairs to socialize something, make it purposeful, useful, efficient and effective. There’s a special place in our hearts for those who pull it off. And well, there’s a special place somewhere else for the rest of you who don’t.

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Comments

  1. Art,

    This post is so, so, SO right -on! I don’t think meetings in and of themselves are bad. Poorly-run meetings or needless meetings are what give meetings a bad name.

    Ha – “I checked the rule book” – you are too funny.

  2. Good points!

    Also, follow these important meeting rules: Invite only those people who really need to be at the meeting, then get in, discuss progress/problems/plans/action items, then get out. More important than almost anything else, meeting action items MUST have specific, responsible parties and due dates, or things just won’t get done. Lastly, think of meetings as having sort of a taxi-timer running, with the dollars adding up every minute for all of the participants’ salaries, so accomplish what you need to accomplish during the meeting and get back to work.

    Fred Ernsting

  3. Russell I. Dyreng says:

    Start on time. End on time.
    Take control of your meeting. Tell the participants in advance that the meeting will start promptly at the appointed time, and stay true to your word.
    It’s a big time waster to spend 15 minutes at the beginning of a meeting waiting for the players to trickle in and to do search and rescue for those who “forget” to come.
    Don’t let others take away control of your meeting by their bad habits. If people know that you’re serious about punctuality they’ll start coming on time.
    Remember to end the meeting at the scheduled time. It builds credibility and also lets people know that they can’t waste meeting time by going off on tangents.

    • Russel, more great adds. Love the emphasis on punctuality. I find this lacking in most organizations. Makes me nuts. -Art

  4. Stand up meetings are a great way to keep it short, to the point and keep people awake and involved.

  5. Can’t help but notice the only guaranteed output of most meetings I attend is the agreement to have another meeting to “measure” the success of the current meeting.

    My response to most questions at meetings (between snoozes):

    “That information is currently in the information silo, but to give the 65,000 foot overview, first I need to
    parking lot some issues until they show up on the radar, and then we can cataloge the pain points by measuring the deltas and provide some feedback to the stakeholders.” gawd

  6. Joe Chasse says:

    Meeting organizers also need to stop scheduling back-to-back meetings as it is impossible to finish one meeting and then magically appear “on time” at the next meeting.

    Using SCRUM techniques is great for meetings; you get in and you get out and everyone gets what they need.

  7. Great list! Here is number 12 : have the meeting standing up. Take out all the chairs and just have some high tables for note pads. I did this and cut average meeting length in half!

  8. Great points – I would probably repeat 1 and 2 a few more times, just to make sure they are thoroughly understood, even by people who love to call meetings at the drop of the hat.

    I would add – DON’T go to meeting that don’t have an agenda (admittedly, this is from the participant’s POV).

    I do think that scheduling follow up meetings isn’t a bad idea, though, as long as you make absolutely sure that you have a specific goal, and agenda – it tends to make sure that tasks get done, as people see deadlines looking overhead, and they HAVE to finish doing X before it comes.

  9. These are great tips for cutting down on wasted time and useless meetings. I especially appreciated this quote: “Completing a 60 minute meeting in 40 minutes is like winning the psychic lottery. Found time is always good.” Thanks!

    Kate
    http://katemats.com

  10. Teresa Chalmers says:

    Art, Great idea on how to run an effective meeting. I especially love number 1. Where I use to work we had to show up for a weekly meeting whether there was enough information to cover or not. It really makes the meetings less powerful. Great ideas!

  11. While deployed to Iraq, our brigade commander would hold a meeting every morning to verify unit/ mission statuses, discuss old/ new business and watch everyone not ask questions. Although our environment certainly changes meeting dynamics, this list would have proved very helpful.
    Most ground commanders resented leaving there productive daily routines for boring, redundant and virtually pointless meetings that usually led nowhere.
    thanks for the list, i look forward to reading more.

    -eddie
    the new guy in town

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