The COO of my consulting firm years ago used to start staff meetings with 5-15 minutes of small talk. Although he intended to promote socializing, the adverse consequences were late-arrivers, difficulty in focusing on serious discussion at the start of the meeting, and low energy throughout the remainder of the meeting.
But those meetings were not atypical: I’ve attended client meetings, board meetings, and industry conferences in which attendees fidgeted with their devices, worked on other projects, or left the room repeatedly to take calls. Such behavior is a career mistake for the attendee and a costly timewaster for the entire organization.
Whether you’re the leader or just a participant, it’s your responsibility to understand the meeting process and follow the flow well enough so that you can exercise leadership skills to guide a productive discussion and deliver meeting outcomes. Understanding the process, you’ll increase your chances to end with results, not excuses.
Tuck the following 8 meeting tips under your hat!
8 Meeting Tips to Improve Your ROI
Find or Become a Skilled Meeting Facilitator
Either become that skilled facilitator, select a coworker to lead the meetings, or ask a colleague in another division to trade-off facilitation roles with you. You facilitate their staff meetings and they’ll lead yours. Meetings don’t lead themselves; they devolve into rambling discussions.
State the Issue to Be Solved––Succinctly
As Charles Kettering, the famed inventor and head of research for General Motors, once stated, “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” If no clear question or well-defined problem has been posed, consider that the challenge. State it succinctly to re-focus attention on the issue.
On the other hand, possibly the meeting is about identifying the problem. When that’s the case, then stating the issue succinctly to capture its essence is itself the focus.
Lay a Solid Foundation With a Tell-All Agenda
Accept the well-established fact that you need an agenda—even for routine staff meetings. A meeting agenda is to a meeting what a foundation is to a skyscraper. The firmer, the better. And state that agenda in question form, not topic form. Example: “Should we have a booth at Hilltop Trade Show as part of our marketing effort?” Not: “Hilltop Trade Show.”
Present a Trophy to the MVP
At the beginning of an important meeting, announce that you plan to ask everyone to toss a name in a hat to vote for the MVP (most valuable participant)—the person who contributes in the most significant way during the meeting. If you like, as a reward, you can buy their lunch or a free drink. People pay attention not for the value of the reward, but for ego reasons.
Start and End on Time––Really
No excuses. People believe what you do, not what you say you’re going to do. If you train attendees to arrive late by inconsistent start times, they learn to arrive on time inconsistently. If your meetings run late, they’ll feel no pressure to quash rants, rambles, and repetitive remarks.
Stand Up and Shut Up
People become much briefer and pay more rapt attention when they’re standing. A stand-up meeting communicates “Let’s get this decided, delegated, and done.”
Meet ONLY for the Right Reasons
Reconsider holding a meeting just because the clock or calendar says so. Brainstorming together can generate much broader thinking and deeper questions that quickly become too cumbersome to handle in other ways. But you can get routine input many ways: email responses, surveys, phone conversations.
Know Your ROI
If you OWN the meeting, make sure you know the cost and the expected deliverables: Only an analysis of a problem? A decision? A recommendation? Input to pass on to another group or individual?
Are you earning what you want on your investment of staff time––and yours?