How to run effective meetings

We often hear people saying they hate business meetings or that they are a waste of time, uttering phrases like “that is an hour of my life that I will never get back!” or “what was the point of that then?”

The trouble is, meetings are essential.  Without them businesses can easily become flotsam on the high seas, bobbing around without direction or purpose.  Equally they could be ruled by diktat with decrees issued for implementation – and no one likes that either.

At their best, a good meeting can be motivational, empowering, instructive and generate a sense of purpose.   It can create debate, spark creativity, build consensus and align disparate views.  Participants become partners, loose canons become advocates and the silent can become valued voices of reason.

So how can you ensure that your meetings are greeted with pleasure rather than groans?

The 7 rules for a great meeting

Whist not exclusive for success, you will be taking significant steps forward by applying the following:

  1. Purpose and agenda.  First things first, does this issue really need a meeting or can it be resolved in a different way? If a meeting is required, make sure you set an agenda that is manageable and achieves the purpose of the meeting within a certain time. Timings can be helpful and it’s also worth ensuring that agenda items are balanced.
     
  2. Small but inclusive.  Consider who you need at the meeting to get the plurality of views that will be helpful to getting the best solutions.  This may not be the obvious people – think broadly and make sure they know why you have asked them to his meeting.
     
  3. Change the context. When you want to avoid the “same old discussions” create a different context where the discussions can happen, jolting participants out of old routines. Consider changing the time or day when the meetings happen or indeed their length. We are great fans of standing meetings that are especially helpful for short updates or where critical and quick decisions are required. One of the best ways to change the context is to hold the meeting in a new location – away from familiar reference points.
     
  4. Avoid distractions.  It seems obvious, but we are really surprised how many meetings are derailed by telephone calls, interruptions from the office, outside noises or diverted focus to the number one distraction, the mobile phone.  These distractions are all avoidable – so create a space where you all have focus on the agenda, each other’s contributions, your own thoughts…and nothing else.
     
  5. The role of Chair.  Anyone can chair the meeting, but their role requires them to separate their work role from running the meeting.  Their purpose is to ensure the meeting runs smoothly and the best decisions result.  They will work through the agenda, creating wide participation and ensuring all relevant viewpoints have been considered.  They will need to bring in the quiet observers and soften the din of the empty vessels….
     
  6. Be a good Participant.  Attending a meeting is not a passive task.  It requires attendees to listen carefully to others’ contributions and to offer useful inputs.  Asking the right questions can be as helpful as giving useful information.  Be particularly aware when you are not contributing positively to the meeting – why is that and what can you do to avoid it?  Help bring others into the meeting and be aware when you are monopolising the conversation.
     
  7. Clarity about the way forward.  Even great meetings can be neutralized in their impact if there is no follow-up.  All meetings need the attendees and those not in the meeting impacted by the decisions to understand what was decided, who will be doing what next and when!  Actions need to be owned, monitored, and evaluated.   

 

Running an effective meeting is a business skill and one that needs practice and honing.  At Devon Business & Education Centre we often host business meetings and strategy events as our location and spaces are ideal for helping participants think creatively, avoid distractions and talk confidentially about key business issues. 

We also like to support businesses by observing or facilitating their meetings, ensuring that all participants leave the meeting with a spring in their step. If you or any of your staff would benefit from additional support, book into one of our "meetings masterclasses" - see our training page  or  please email us at info@dbec.co.uk.

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