How to have Better Meetings

by Jul 21, 2021

Are you tired of attending meetings that have no outcome? You leave meetings feeling frustrated because everything else was spoken about except what was on the agenda? Do meetings feel like a waste of time, so you avoid them?

A Coach-like Approach to Meetings, in keeping with a Coaching Culture

Meetings, which are the heart of the organization and from where the life of the organization flows, need to be safeguarded and respected because it is where important decisions are made that affect the whole organization and the employees. It is at the core of these meetings that the mind of each member is of importance because the group’s effectiveness depends on the calibre of their thinking!

“It is a huge asset to the organization when meetings are turned into thinking environments.”

Nancy Kline’s Time to Think.

If meetings are facilitated efficiently, intentionally, and effectively they can be time-savers for every business, project, team and individual. All employees play an important part in ensuring that good decisions are made in the meetings they attend.

How to Ensure Meetings are Effective and a Valuable use of Everyone’s Time

Participation in a meeting takes place in two ways, either as the facilitator who is very often the organiser or as a participator. The way I see it the responsibility of creating effective meetings is with all participants.

Preparing and facilitating the meeting as the Facilitator (organiser)

A meeting should always have a purpose – define the good reason for the meeting.

  • What is the desired outcome of the meeting?
  • What will ensure that the meeting is worth everyone’s time?
  • Create a flexible agenda of these important points.
  • Invite all relevant participants to attend the meeting.
  • Ensure the meeting room is big enough to accommodate everyone.
  • Check that the technological and practical needs meet all the requirements.

How to begin the meeting

  • Begin the meeting on time, even if not all participants have arrived.
  • Time-box the meeting allowing for about 5 to 10 minutes at the end to wrap up.
  • Present the important points of the agenda to ensure that everyone understands the reason for the meeting.
  • Invite other items to be added to the agenda that may be important to the others in the meeting.
  • Agree on how members can speak up or how they could indicate that the meeting is going off track and/or not providing value. One suggestion could be “put your hand up to speak” or “wave of hands” or “put your finger on your nose” which brings with it some fun and lightheartedness.
  • If time allows, do a round of appreciation allowing every person to say something they appreciate about their work, their team or a person. Allow everyone to speak if they want to and without interruption.
  • For virtual meetings, encourage that all participants should have their cameras on. If they are not able to, request that they have their camera on when it is their turn to talk.
  • If it is feasible, one could request no other devices be allowed in the room to avoid distractions. This is not always possible but it could be a meeting agreement between participants. This is not as easy in virtual meetings but try establishing an agreement between participants of what is doable and acceptable.

Every meeting has talkers and non-talkers!

  • Provide a safe and trusting environment ensuring that everyone’s ideas and suggestions are respected without interruption. Allow the space for truth and for deep feelings to be expressed without repercussion or ridicule.
  • Listen attentively and ask curious thought-provoking questions.
  • Be sure to allow the non-talkers to speak uninterrupted – they very often speak the wisest words.
  • Make eye contact with the individual’s in the room (onsite and virtual). Try encouraging all cameras to be switched on for at least part of the meeting.
  • Read the room’s energy, facial expressions, the body language and watch for patterns of participation behaviour. In virtual meetings this is not always easy but one soon learns to watch the icon boxes light up, hands being raised or the emoticons.

Allow the conversation to flow without interference, even if there is some heated disagreement!

  • Some of the best decisions are made when constructive disagreement is allowed. Avoid interrupting unless the disagreement is harmful and damaging to another person and/or the outcome of the meeting.
  • Try your best not to stifle creativity because of the time; however don’t ignore the important items on the agenda either.
  • Allow each person to put their ideas forward, and if time allows keep exploring until the best ideas are discovered.

Some important discussion may be taking place that is not on the agenda but is critical that it be discussed.

  • Review the agenda to decide if the item of discussion is more important than the item(s) on the agenda and decide whether this can wait for another meeting or not:
    • If it can wait then make a note of it so that it can be addressed in another meeting.
    • If it cannot wait then decide what happens to the items on the agenda and whether another meeting should be scheduled or if these items could be addressed in an email discussion.
  • All parties should agree to the decision that is made.

The last 5 to 10 minutes

  • Use this time to review that everyone has what they need from the meeting.
  • Summarize the gist of the meeting and note action items (if applicable).
  • Close the meeting with a last round to ask everyone what they thought went well in the meeting.

Preparing and participating as a Participant

Participators too should go into the meeting prepared with what they want from the meeting.

  • When you leave the meeting what will tell you it was time well spent?
  • What are the answers you need from this meeting to feel informed, enabled, and equipped to do your work?
    • Knowing this, prepare to ask the right questions in the meeting that helps you accomplish what you want from the meeting.

What will help you to stay centered, intentional, and focused in the meeting?

Always respect the other people in the meeting.

  • Actively listen, with curiosty and an open mind, to what is being said and what is not being said.
  • Read the body language and the level of engagement between all parties.
  • Allow others to safely share their thoughts and ideas without prejudice and interruption.
  • Because you may have what you want from the meeting or you may understand what is being said, it does not mean that everybody has what they want or that they understand. Be patient and if you are given the opportunity ask questions that may help the others better understand, or summarize what you understand about what has been said to help them better understand.
  • Remember that if you feel frustrated / ignored / don’t understand then others may also feel the same and if no-one speaks up then a lot of valuable time will be wasted. It may take courage to speak up, but know that they will be thankful to you for doing so.
  • Contribute to the meeting in a way that is engaging, creative and innovative.
  • Ask enquiring and decisive questions keeping in mind that decisions made in these meetings affect the organization and your peers.

In Conclusion

It may not always be as simple and as easy as it sounds and we may have the best intentions which don’t always work to plan. However, my hope is that leaders and managers would become more aware of how important effective meetings are to the life of the organization and try implement some small changes in the way they conduct their meetings.

Think about introducing some fun ideas to inspire participation and inclusion in your meetings. Creativity and innovation make meetings a lot more fun and is an added bonus to effective and valuable meetings.

Give space and allow all participants to take responsibility to ensure that meetings are fun, productive, enabling, and empowering. This will go a long way to encouraging employee engagement, innovation, and collaboration within meetings.

#simplicity #purpose #unity