1. Cut down your total meeting time – Meetings tend to fall into 2 categories – (1) to share information, and (2) to solve problems or create opportunities.
If it is the first of these, consider whether the same thing can be achieved by other means (eg email or memos). If it is the latter, consider holding less frequent more effective meetings with more people in them.
On this second point, most organisations underestimate what can be achieved in properly facilitated large group multi stakeholder meetings or workshops. One option is to run six monthly meetings with a representation of all relevant stakeholder groups. Run properly, such meetings result in enormously effective outcomes and the need for less meeting time overall.
However, even if you are not willing to go this far, an interim step is to use what’s called the ‘3×3 rule’. At any meeting make sure that staff include 3 different functions and 3 different levels.
If you hold regular staff meetings, ask yourself whether they are as important as you think. The reason “that’s the way we have always done it” is a poor excuse for doing anything. If in doubt, stop holding them and see what happens.
2. Create a positive purpose – This is a maximum of 2 lines that will inform your meeting and hopefully generate some passion from attendees.
4. Consider who to invite – We have already said it but consider inviting more stakeholders than you normally would.
5. Start on time –– Many meeting leaders arrive late to their meetings. This is not only a waste of other’s productive time but most importantly sends a signal of disrespect. Barring a personal emergency, there is absolutely no reason for being late to your own meeting. This is an incredibly important aspect of holding effective meetings.
6. State the purpose at the outset – This takes literally 10 seconds but will mean that everybody is on the same wavelength.
7. Set enough time – A common mistake that leaders and facilitators alike make is to try to get done more than what is achievable within a given time frame. Don’t make this mistake. If you wish for the meeting to be effective, then it is worth giving the right amount of time to it.
8. If needed, appoint a recorder/secretary – Many find that it is sufficient to record any decisions made and action agreed-upon, and that anything above this is often wasted.
9. If needed, appoint a timekeeper – It is often difficult to keep track of both the meeting and the time. Try this and see the difference it makes. The timekeeper needs to be strong enough to come in when people are approaching and/or over their allocated time.
10. Action from previous meeting – If the meeting is part of a regular series of meetings, recount each of the action plans that were agreed on at the previous meeting and have the responsible person or people indicate where they have got to with it. (This makes it clear that people will be held accountable.)
11. End on time – Again this sends a signal of respect to the attendees. The one exception to this is if all attendees agree to extend the finish time.
12. Control what you can, let go what you can’t – There are only 2 things you can control in a meeting – the meetings structure and your own behaviour. What you CANNOT control is the behaviour of others or when the group is ready to reveal hidden agendas or when attendees are ready to take responsibility. So stop trying.
13. Hear attendee’s interest – A really effective way to start non-regular meetings is to quickly hear from each attendee as to their interest in being at the meeting. Set a time limit (eg 1 min per person) and stick to it. Invite people to be open about their reason for attending.
14. Use the Go Around – This involves quickly going around the room and giving each person the opportunity to say how they see the situation. It is very simple but very effective. Again set a time limit (eg 2-3 mins each) and strictly stick to the time limit. This is one of the best tips for running effective meetings.
15. Find common ground – A group is more likely to take action to effect change where they have come to some agreement as to the desired future. This usually takes the form of agreement around the strategic areas that require focusing on in order to achieve the purpose.
16. Ask attendees how you can improve future meetings – The best way to do this without it becoming a whinge session is to first ask “What has worked well in our meetings in the past”. Once the group has explored that, then ask “What can we do to make them even more efefctive”.
17. Be willing to an experimenter and learner – Leading highly effective meetings is not easy and not natural. Be open to trying different things and learning from them.
18. Work on your own individual development – In some ways this is probably the most important point. Implementing a lot of the above points requires a combination of internal strength, willpower and humility. As just one example, a good meeting leader opens himself or herself up to criticism and must be willing to be disliked. Getting to this point requires working on one’s own growth and development.
19. Action planning – The last step of any meeting should be devoted to action planning – who is going to do what by when.
20. Restate the action – Take the final minutes of the meeting to restate the commitments that people have made.
21. Consider investing in an external facilitator – Where the meeting is important enough, consider whether you would get sufficient return for your money by engaging an external expert facilitator. (You may not only benefit directly from a more effective meeting but also through observation of the facilitator).
PS – if you really want a quick and focused meeting have:
- No tea, coffee or water
- No food
- No chairs
- No tables