Some people hate meetings, some people love them. Sometimes they’re great, often they’re not. For any business or project that has more than one person involved they are absolutely essential, but they can also be destructive.
I have personally been part of thousands of meetings in my life, and have organized more than my fair share. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes, have learned a lot of lessons, and I’m still learning.
I wrote this to help you learn from my mistakes, and harness the power of meetings for good, and not let the evil take over. The most important ingredients are:
- Clarity of Purpose
- Maximizing output/impact
And always our favorite, very critical, and often overlooked step:
- Reflection and continual improvement
CLARITY OF PURPOSE:
Is it clear why you’re having the meeting, and what the specific objectives are? Write that down and share it BEFORE the meeting, preferably in the meeting invitation, so people can (a.) be prepared, (b.) help the meeting be successful, and (c.) know whether they should be in the meeting at all.
PREPARATION TIME = RESPECT:
The process of preparing for a meeting should almost always take longer than the meeting itself, with the goal of making the meeting and process as efficient and effective as possible. This becomes even more important the larger and longer the meeting is, because time is compounded. A 30 minute meeting with 2 people cost 1 hour of time. A one hour meeting with 10 people cost 10 hours of time. Can the meeting be just as effective while be shorter, and with fewer people? Preparation can help.
Pre-meeting preparation can include things like assembling and sharing key documents ahead of time, sharing a brief background note, gathering opinions and information from key stakeholders, or other things. You should also be cautious about how much you expect other people to spend themselves reading things before a meeting (that also counts as part of the time cost of the meeting), so make things as succinct and clear as possible.
Facilitation can have a huge impact on the success and output of a meeting. Can you make sure everyone has a chance to speak? That people feel comfortable to be open? That side discussions or distractions don’t take over? That people stay positive, and on point? That the meeting is actually fun?
It’s rare that the actual work is done during the meeting, so it’s important to think about what can be done during the meeting to help maximize what happens after the meeting?
Frameworks to Help Get it Right
There are great meeting frameworks to learn from as well. One favorite of ours is IDOARRT: Intention, Desired Outcome, Agenda, Rules, Roles, Time. Email those to everyone ahead of time (preferably) or sharing at the beginning of the meeting can help everything move faster. Adopting a framework like that right away in your office or team might be a bit difficult, since people in general are often resistant to change, so maybe you can add elements one by one, or pick the ones that could be most helpful for your team and your meetings.
On top of those 6, I also like adding three to make it IDOARRT-NAR, the NAR representing: Notes Shared, Actions Assigned, and Reflection.
Even taking simple note, bullet points, and sharing them with everyone involved can massively help improve impact of meetings, and teams.
Most meetings exist to help make decisions. Make sure that before any meeting ends, next steps are clear, and assigned to specific people. SMART tasks are preferred: Specific, measurable, assigned, realistic, time-bound.
Reflection and continual improvement:
No matter which steps or framework you try, or how amazing or horrible your meetings are going, the the the most important thing you and your team can adopt is a habit of continual improvement, and that applies to meetings as well. After each meeting, ask the participants, and yourself, one simple question:
“How can we make our next meeting (or anything) just a little bit better than this one?”
If you can adopt that growth mindset as a habit in your work and in your life, for meetings and otherwise, you can massively boost what you can achieve, and how happy you can be.
I also love learning, growing, and getting better, day by day. If you have other ideas about how to make meetings awesome and effective, please share them below!