8 Tips for meeting success

For many people, meetings are a bore – they get in the way of urgent tasks and turn into talking shops that don’t achieve any return for your time. Yet some are valuable – if you do them right, says Caitlin Mackesy Davies

Meeting nieuwe ledenThen why meet? Well, some of what you hate about meetings is why they can be valuable. That break from your inbox of urgent messages can free you up to consider larger issues in the business and find out more about how your tasks and challenges mesh with others.

And we’ve all got a need to interact face to face with people we work with – to put a name to a face, build trust and cement relationships.

Finally, it’s a moment when a diverse group of people can really concentrate on a problem at hand and agree on collaborative action. So how can you ensure you lead a meeting that lives up to its potential?

Follow the leader
Instead of putting one person in charge and letting the rest doze off, doodle or dream the meeting away, pass the chairman’s baton
to a new person every 10 minutes (or at another reasonable interval). This will keep everyone’s head in the game and also head off meeting monopolisers.

Wander wall
Write each challenge on a big piece of paper and hang them around your meeting room. Arm everyone with a marker pen so they can walk the room
and write up any solutions or ideas they have for each issue. Discuss them right away, or follow them up post-meeting, whichever suits your timetable.

Card sharp
Put everyone’s business cards (or just their names) in a pile and pick names out for responses or opinions when it comes to making decisions. You’d be surprised how quickly that will focus people’s minds!

Cut your losses
Don’t be afraid to end a meeting if the group isn’t making progress, or to excuse people who have done their bit. It’s not an endurance event, so if it
just isn’t happening, suggest other ways to continue the discussions outside the session.

Go no-tech
If the temptation to check a BlackBerry is proving too much for those coming to meetings, put a blanket ban on technology next time. That said, if you have scheduled a marathon session, plan email breaks when everyone can quickly check in.

Quick start
Assign everyone a premeeting project – researching an issue, rainstorming on a specific problem, or gathering feedback on an issue from their team or department – so people arrive with ideas. Discussions can get off the ground quickly.

Bring a guest
Let each person bring a plus-one who might be outside the team but may have a fresh perspective on what you are discussing. It will help get information and opinions flowing around the company.

Good to great
As your meeting breaks up, ask everyone to give feedback. What did we do well in the meeting? Or what could have been better? This can be anonymous so people can say if their boss needed reining in, and will mean that you control the next meeting better.

Comments

My experience of meetings is that those that went regularly well had:

An agenda with time allocated to each topic including review of previous actions

Did not have too many people (no more than 5-7)

Did not go on too long (no more than one hour)

Were chaired by different people each time

Had a process observer/timekeeper that commented on how it had gone and areas for improvement

Were written up with key actions/actionees/timings

The chair would actively draw in people that had not openly commented to get their input

........and had humour.........!

Standing up is also supposed to work well as it ensures people don't get too 'comfy' in the meeting and ensures it is short and to the point.