7 Methods for Conducting Masterful Meetings
“A Meeting is indispensable when you don’t want to get anything done.” says author Thomas Kayser. Every day, millions of meetings are held worldwide. Research suggests that half of them are wasted time and most bore people to tears. Statistics show the 79% of professionals do other work in their meetings and 39% admit to dozing off for a few minutes. Obviously, there is room for improvement. Managers spend 25-80% of their time in meetings. Plan your meetings like the great conductor Arturo Toscanini who gave thrilling performances of legendary precision and drive.
One of my customers asked me to do a customer experience meeting with his third shift team starting at 10:30 pm. He was having trouble with their productivity. I agreed. I showed up early to prepare final details for the meeting, and I walked through the shop to talk to team members one on one. I rearranged the meeting room so it was conducive to positive communication and organized all materials. Some team members showed up a few minutes early, and I welcomed and recognized each person as they arrived. Some slouched in their chairs as if this was going to be a boring event. The manager came in right on time said hi to me and told his team, “This is Rick, he will do the meeting. Pay attention.” Then the manager went home for the night.
Sound like a nightmare? However, within 10 minutes everyone was engaged and we had an awesome one hour meeting. I continued meeting with them over a period of months to solve key problems. I eventually engaged the manager, too. Together, we achieved significant productivity and quality gains in a short period of time. Why was I able to accomplish this? I have learned how to conduct effective meetings. Too many managers don’t do that and keep making the same mistakes over and over. See my post The Top Ten Meeting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
Here are seven approaches that have helped me do a significantly better job facilitating meetings – they are masterful only because few people use them.
Know your purpose and create an agenda to achieve it. For example, in sales departments, a weekly sales meeting is often held to: share results, review plans and marketing efforts, praise sales leaders, train on sales skills or motivate. Send the agenda out ahead of time if you can or re-confirm it at the beginning of your meeting. Robert Half research shows that the biggest reasons for poor meetings relate to this lack of direction. Don’t just do a meeting to meet. Be different, be better.
Set a timeline and keep to it. Start your meeting on time and end on time. One phenomena that is happening today everywhere is the extended meeting, especially phone conferences. The schedule may say thirty minutes but it ends up being sixty minutes or more. This happens so often today it’s an epidemic and it’s an expensive waste of people’s time and intellect. How many frustrating meetings have you been in that start late or go late? Get a stopwatch, use a timekeeper or learn to be disciplined. Value people’s time and they will value yours.
Start Positively. The meeting begins before it starts. Be prepared. Change the meeting room around. Meet in a new location. Decorate your meeting room. Begin by discussing the key agenda items, but don’t always be so predictable. Do a warm-up exercise. Use music, props or do a jig (maybe).
Engage the participants. Each person at the meeting can add value. Some are always more involved than others. Use small group discussion techniques to help everyone get involved. Do a skit or role-play. Drop PowerPoint and use live projection. Praise helpful participation.
Facilitate effectively with enthusiasm. As the leader of the meeting, you must have some passion for what you are doing. Fire up! Also, be a good listener, allow others to talk, moderate the time for all input, praise contributions, handle disagreements constructively, give feedback that is helpful, keep the meeting on task and build consensus successfully. To do this well, it takes practice, study, and training. YOU can do it.
Take notes. It’s helpful for the leader if someone else is assigned to take minutes of your discussions. Then the leader can focus on the meeting. Few people have a perfect memory, with note-taking you will have a record of key points and decisions achieved in the meeting.
Close-powerfully. Recap key points to reinforce decisions and next steps. Too often different people will have different perceptions of what happened. This step minimizes this concern. End in a dramatic fashion: give a short speech, show a motivational video, or add some drama. Finally, follow-through on decisions and keep your commitments.
As a meeting leader you must pay attention to the content of the meeting – this involves the specifics of the topic. You also have to understand the process of the meeting – how people work together. Always evaluate your effectiveness and what you can do to improve.
Columnist Dale Dauten said, “A meeting moves at the speed of the slowest mind in the room. In other words, all but one participant will be bored, all but one mind underused.” Master these seven areas. You will lead meetings that are productive, energize your team, and highlight your leadership capabilities.
By the way, do you want to learn how to increase employee engagement and inspire your team? Check out our complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire People.
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