Seven Tips to a Great Meeting
… making a regular meeting into a GREAT meeting
by Katie K Snapp
Get in there, Get it done, Get out
|7 TIPS to a GREAT MEETINGTip #1 – Prepare upfront
Tip #2 – Build an agenda
Tip #3 – State your expectations
Tip #4 – Stay on track
Tip #5 – Deal with the personalities
Tip #6 – Finish strong
Tip #7 – Follow-up and follow-through
The 7 Tips in DETAIL
Tip #1 Prepare upfront
Question the need for a meeting by defining the desired outcome and the type of meeting.
Is a meeting the best forum?
Is the meeting for:
- – problem solving
- – idea generation
- – clarification of an issue (question and answer or briefing)
- – information sharing
- – progress assessment (including team health assessment or how-goes-it)
- – combination of the above
If the meeting is justified, then start listing those folks that MUST be there (called Tier 1 people), then those that would be helpful (Tier 2). Consider overall attendance numbers and limit where you can.
Refer to the agenda template for other considerations, such as resource material needed and location.
Like most of the world, you probably attend meetings often, so your preparation should consider pitfalls of poor meetings and ways to make the time most worthwhile.
Tip #2 Build an agenda
(use a great template)
Use the agenda template to create a meaningful, realistic agenda and distribute. It will aid you later in how to take minutes for your meeting.
The preparation is indeed important, but the choice is NOT to do it thoroughly or not at all.
If you avoid doing an agenda at all because you do not want it half-assed, then I encourage to do it half-assed.
Yes, I just said that. –> A thrown together agenda is BETTER THAN NONE AT ALL.
Tip #3 State your expectations
Since you are the one reading this article, let’s assume you are running the meeting.* Ergo, you have some level of control. (If that made you laugh, then you really do need better meetings.)
Kickoff the meeting with a strong message about your expectations of the meeting. This not only includes what you expect to accomplish during the meeting but also how you expect people to interact to get it done. Statements like:
(depending on your situation)
- I want your concerns voiced
- Look for a win-win in this discussion
- Remember to respect each others’ opinions on this
- I am encouraging far-fetched thinking
- Let’s find a way to push through the past barriers we hit
- I am willing to be wrong on the way we have done this in the past
If you have used a powerful agenda, the flow of the meeting should be a reflection of the agenda.
* NOT running the meeting but looking for how to influence meetings to be more productive?
See effective meeting management.
If your meetings include some “soft” time to get a little chatting out of the way and get folks warmed up, then expect a period of adjustment before you “train” your participants into showing up on time and starting right into your first agenda item.
Tip #4 Stay on track (or … know how to check for deviation)
If you were to use a professional facilitator (a good one) this would be built-in. If you do not have the budget for one or do not have access to one, here is your chance to nudge your skills one step farther along.
First, your preferred choice is to stick with the plan. When you set times on the agenda, you assessed how much of the meeting was worth dedicating to that topic. If you misjudged that time, then you must check with the group for agenda re-negotiating (that is, agree what is going to “give” now that you are about to go off track. Advice to you: get comfortable doing that.)
Deviating from the agenda should only be done if you have strongly managed staying on subject and the energy to veer off is just too strong. That is an indication that the emerging subject needs timely attention.
Did you hear me say strongly manage to stay on the subject?
This requires some strong facilitation skills and perhaps some interrupting. Advice to you: get comfortable doing that too.
Read advice on keeping a meeting effective.
Tip #5 Deal with the personalities
Volumes written on this subject. Mostly because it can be such a tough nut to crack.
Here is the short version. Look for more in a future ezine article (subscribe to the monthly email The Everyday Leader Monthly Tip).
|Participant Behavior in Meeting||Try This|
|Outspoken||Acknowledge this person. Draw attention to him.
Then incite opinions from others around the room.
|Sniper (Negative Ned)||Capture the sniper’s issues on a chart on the wall. This sometimes shuts him up because it looks like you have legitimized his issue and it becomes moot to re-argue.|
|Hidden Agenda||Be adamant about expected behaviors. State the obvious when you see his hesitation or un-stated issue. Bring it all out in a diplomatic way, ready to face it head-on.|
|Chatty with a Neighbor||Set a groundrule for no side-bars (side conversations). Manage the meeting firmly to it.|
|On-and-on Talker||He cannot state something briefly, so you must become comfortable with interrupting. This can be done gently, or better yet, use the “timeout” signal to jump in.
Usually the group is behind you when you go out on a limb like this.
|The Know-It-All||Use this person to your benefit by acknowledging what you think was good about what he said. Then quickly pose a follow-on question for the rest of the group to answer. You may say something like “Jim has a good point about this. Let’s hear from the rest of you.”|
Tip #6 Finish Strong
I recommend three major categories of conclusions from a meeting
1 – the action item list (who will do what by when)
2 – discussion items that need to be covered in the next meeting
3 – the agreements made during the meeting
Keep it short, simple, and easy to read.
Best option: use an agenda form to track emerging agenda items (for a future meeting), and action items. If you have the ability to keep notes electronically do this:
1 – open up the agenda form for this meeting
2 – change the file name from “agenda” to “minutes”
3 – enter the notes on the second page of the form
4 – track the action items that come up, as well as any topics that need to be tables for a future meeting. In essence, you are creating the agenda for the next meeting. Easy.
Tip #7 Follow-up and follow-through
Send out the notes. If you tracked them electronically during the meeting (highly recommended) then writing minutes is very simple! Cut/paste the action items list and email it in a separate email to those people with actions assigned to them.
Most often, the follow-up is weak because it takes more time. Simpler is better. Writing minutes in the form of Tip #6 above