“A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.” – Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek
When was the last time you left a meeting feeling inspired and thinking, “That was an awesome meeting!” Or better yet, when was the last time you watched other people in the room leave inspired about the awesome meeting? Was it yesterday? Last week? Last month? Last year? Maybe it was never.
Sadly, it’s far more likely that you’ve walked out of most meetings thinking, “What a waste of my time.” But I have a secret to share with you -- your meetings don’t have to suck.
In fact, if done right, your meetings hold the potential to drive alignment within the business; give direction; generate energy, focus, and creativity; and inspire your people to elevate the business to the next level. But when a meeting is run poorly, which happens often, then none of that is possible.
Here are a few tips to ensure your meetings are productive:
Maximize time by creating an agenda.
Creating an agenda in advance gives you the distinct advantage of maximizing your time. When you include how long each item is up for discussion, this helps you realize whether you’ve allocated too much or too little time for certain subjects. This gives you flexibility to adjust and split topics into separate groups before the meeting begins, instead of trying to navigate this on the fly.
Only include essential employees.
Creating your agenda in advance also forces you to think critically about who you’re inviting. Often I see leaders show up for a meeting only to realize they’ve invited too many people or the wrong ones. I firmly believe it’s vital only to invite individuals for the portion of the agenda for which they’re needed to maximize everyone’s time.
Related: 5 Tips for Effective Team Meetings
Start meetings on time.
Punctuality is not so much a virtue, which suggests it’s in some way above and beyond what’s required. Rather, it reflects a larger philosophy of showing respect. “Sorry, I’m late” translates in business as “Screw you, I don’t respect you.”
Know your role.
Every meeting must include five key roles -- the moderator, the parking lot, the timekeeper, the participants and the closer. Each of these five roles is crucial to running successful meetings. Taking the time to assign each of the roles at the beginning of each meeting will make your meetings more efficient and effective. Learn more about these roles and how they shape meetings in Meetings Suck: Turning One of the Most Loathed Elements of Business into One of the Most Valuable.
So what should you do when you have quieter, more reserved people in a meeting? The best thing you can do as the leader is first to hold your ideas back until the end. Too often, leaders offer their ideas first. But people don’t become confident, or grow as leaders, by listening to what you have to say. Instead, you need to encourage the members of the team to offer their ideas first, especially those less inclined to speak up. Once you’ve called on the junior and quieter types, then move on to the more talkative types and then the senior staff. Plus, if a good idea emerges, then the team has solved the problem on its own, which builds confidence and unity too.
The day has come to elevate your meetings and your role in them, and to use meetings as a tool to take your company and your career to the next level.
We have work to do -- let’s get started.