3 smart ways to make your next meeting more productive

17 Jul 2017 9:58 PM | Anonymous

Are you lonely? Don’t like working on your own? Hate making decisions? Then call a meeting!

Everyone laughs about funny meeting memes but the reality is most meetings are a distraction and a waste of time.  

Psychologist and master trainer Ian Plowman has been a professional facilitator for three decades and has devised some clever ways to make your next meeting a productive one.

Here’s a few ideas he shared with me as to how he makes meetings work more effectively.

1. Send the agenda in advance with key questions attached

Ian is quite clear on this.

“Don’t invite people to a meeting without letting them know in advance what the ‘social contract’ is – the purpose, the timing, and the rules of engagement of how the team will work together.”

I had a strategic planning session coming up with a client so I put Ian on the spot and asked him how he’d prepare for a meeting like that.

“If I were running a meeting on Strategic Planning, I’d ask each attendee to prepare a three-minute response to three key questions before they arrive at the meeting.”

“So what are those three key questions, Ian?” I asked.

“They’re very simple but very powerful. I’d ask the attendees to come prepared with an answer to these three questions: 

  1. What is your experience with Strategic Planning?
  2. What is your greatest satisfaction with Strategic Planning?
  3. What is your biggest frustration with Strategic Planning?”

I asked Ian how this helps the meeting run more smoothly.

“These questions streamline the way the meeting runs. They:

  • help all attendees learn more about the experience of those in the room and what role they and their colleagues can play at the meeting
  • give people time to think about the topic at hand before they arrive so they’re instantly productive the moment they arrive
  • clarify the key issues or challenges of what problems need to be resolved
  • help people express their emotions early in the meetings and lays the foundation for authentic expression of ideas.”    

2. Appoint a moderator to facilitate the discussion

Every successful meeting is led by a skilled facilitator or monitor. This need not be the boss and in fact, it’s preferable if they’re not. The monitor’s role is to facilitate the discussion, keep everyone to time, and get agreement from the group on the rules and acceptable behaviour before the meeting begins.

Meetings can become shouting matches or become time blow-outs if there is no one appointed to be the moderator or monitor. 

Ian says, “A simple way to train everyone in the art of facilitation is to give everyone a turn at moderating the meeting. This also helps everyone understand what it’s like to run a meeting and shows them how challenging some behaviours can be,” says Ian.

If you don’t have a well-trained facilitator at your association, train a staff member in the art of facilitation or hire one and see how the professionals do it. 

“Once you have a professional facilitator run a meeting, you’ll see why other meetings have been less than productive. They really make the difference. It’s a skill that has to be learnt,” Ian says.

3. Manage the personalities in the room

There’s always a wide display of personalities on show at a meeting. The extrovert who won’t pipe down. The introvert who won’t pipe up. The naysayer who finds fault with every idea. Everyone has a role to play but the facilitator must have strategies for bringing out the best in each team member.

“Introverts will appreciate having time in advance to prepare their thoughts and dedicated time at the meeting, free of interruptions to present them. Junior members of the team may appreciate being able to contribute ideas anonymously, particularly if the ideas are critical of current strategies, or people in the meeting. Experienced executives will appreciate their expertise being recognised and drawn upon publicly,” says Ian.

If you or your team struggle to make your meetings productive, maybe you need to re-think the way you’re running them. These strategies could help you see meetings in a whole new light.

Key take outs:

  1. Send the agenda in advance and be specific about how you want people to contribute at the meeting.
  2. Appoint a trained facilitator to run the meeting (or hire one to train your team).
  3. Get clear on how your team prefer to communicate so they feel comfortable sharing their ideas at the meeting.

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