Thursday, February 16th, 2017

How to Have Fewer, Better Meetings

Use this series of questions to help you figure out:

  • If you need a meeting
  • How to make it an effective use of everyone’s time

What do I want to accomplish?

First ask, “Do you even need a meeting?”

With a better understanding of what you want to gain from the meeting, you’ll be half way to deciding whether a meeting is the right tool.

Once you figure out what you want to accomplish, ask yourself:

  • Can it be done another way?
  • What will happen if we don’t meet? What could go wrong?
  • What’s the most efficient way to share this information, give direction, etc.

If you’ve met for this purpose before, consider:

  • What went well last time?
  • What didn’t go well?

Now you should have a good idea whether it’s necessary. If a meeting is the best option, the answers to those questions will also help you determine how long you need.

What is the additional value of meeting?

Besides what you want to accomplish, is there additional value in choosing to have a meeting? Think of things like:

  • Building relationship among team members
  • Hearing the other verbal, non-word cues such as tone and intonation
  • Reading the body language to increase understanding (in the case of face-to-face meetings)
  • Providing an opportunity for people to raise additional points

What can we get done in the meeting?

This is a bit deeper than the first question since it goes beyond your need. Think about your team and any other participants.

  • Is it about shared understanding?
  • Can decisions be made during the meeting?
  • Is it an opportunity to provide and clarify direction?

Determine the most important objectives and outcomes for everyone in the room. Make effective use of the time and be sure all actions and responsibilities arising from the meeting will be clear when they leave the room.

Who needs to be there?

Watch the FYI element – determine if it is beneficial for someone to be present. Ensure those who will have to act as a result of discussions, or who need to thoroughly understand the items to be discussed, are present.

Don’t create a situation where you have to communicate everything that occurred multiple times after the meeting. Keep in mind what is efficient for you and for others.

How can we get it done efficiently?

This is about process and the logistics to make the process go well. There are many things that fall in this category. For starters:

  • How long do you need: maybe it’s a 10 min stand-up meeting to keep focussed on one thing or a whole-day session carefully structured for planning
  • Think about the space: size, recording, sound, accessibility, neutral location
  • What about the configuration: Is a boardroom table the right setting? How should table(s) and seating be set up? What does that imply in terms of roles and power?
  • Would it be better to get away from the distractions of the office?
  • When is the best day, time or frequency for recurring meetings?
  • Keep in in mind the responsibilities of those you want present. Some people may have specific regular commitments which would conflict with meeting times.

Who is taking notes?

Note taking has to be one of the most undervalued skills these days. While the people in the room can usually take their own notes at routine meetings, be careful if it’s a more involved discussion. If you want the results well documented for the file or you need to circulate them to others, think about making this someone’s responsibility.

How will I know if it’s effective?

Think about how to evaluate. It could be as simple as asking for a show of hands to a question at the end:

  • Would this meeting be helpful to do regularly?
  • Was this a good use of your time?

It could be an opportunity to help improve a meeting you know will occur again. Ask for quick suggestions about what to keep doing, stop doing and start doing. If it’s a meeting that is rarer and takes more time, such as strategic planning, use a more robust evaluation tool.

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.  ~ Peter Drucker

Can we do it ourselves?

Consider hiring a facilitator if:

  • You are a critical participant,
  • You feel overwhelmed at the thought of the meeting, or
  • It’s a topic that can generate heated discussion among participants.

An independent facilitator can provide:

  • Expertise in planning the meeting and choosing the best processes to achieve your outcomes
  • Opportunity for full participation and shared outcomes
  • More effective use of time
  • Summary and record of results

If you’ve asked yourself the prior questions, you’ve already started the planning. A good facilitator will build on that, since success in the room is quite dependent on good planning.

I’d be happy to talk with you about your facilitation needs.  Contact me to book a chat.