Three Tips for Effective Meetings

Three Tips for Effective Meetings

With September upon us, your organization may be gearing up for annual budget meetings and other fall planning retreats to strategize for the upcoming year. My hope is that you’ll be using these meetings as opportunities. They are a chance to highlight past and current successes. They also provide the platform for discussing lessons learned and developing any necessary corrective action. When talking about challenges, be aware that candor is critical to getting the most out of these meetings. Disciplined leaders create a culture that focuses on the problem, not the person to prevent discussions from spiraling out of control. Learn how to build structure and sanity into meetings, putting rules in place and getting buy-in from others first as to how people will communicate and behave.

Here are a few things these disciplined leaders do to ensure effective meetings:

1. Establish Ground Rules

Rules are there for a reason, and this mantra is most certainly true when it comes to meetings. Particularly at the start of more formal meetings or those in which vital decisions and activity are taking place, ground rules serve a number of purposes. In general, they set the stage for a more successful meeting. From the start, people know what’s expected and tolerated—and what’s not. What’s more, when you ask them to develop and articulate the ground rules for themselves, you’ll get more buy-in and respect for those rules from the get-go. Just as in other aspects of our life, rules help us to operate in ways that make us feel safe, support our health and wellbeing, and allow us to have positive relationships and experiences.

2. Stick To The Schedule

This can be very hard to do when meetings get heated or topics become more complicated than expected. However, it’s important to expect that time will be a challenge at some point or another. Use a timer to track the time and then choose firm, positive ways to communicate when, for example, it’s time to make a decision and move on or table it for another time. If you feel uncomfortable with this or are unsure of how to reel in those strong personalities that can sometimes take control and manipulate time during a meeting, communicate that concern up front and let people know you’ll be calling the shots. You can also practice “nice ways” to cut people off, for example, saying, “We’ve got two minutes left on this discussion” as opposed to “We’re done talking about this.” The former is way more proactive and effective.

3. Build And Nurture Engagement

This can start with a quick icebreaker that can be as simple as asking people how they feel and giving them the “open” to express why they’re feeling the way they are—if they feel that would be helpful. This immediately gets people engaged, speaking up and feeling a bit more relaxed, which can help if difficult conversation or problem solving lies ahead. It’s also the role of the meeting leader to solicit input and any ideas from a variety of people involved. Don’t allow the quiet types to just sit in the back row and keep their opinions to themselves. Call on a variety of people to share what they know and thank them for their contribution. As well, you can assign people roles at these meetings. This gets them involved and participating, approaching it in a way that develops their professional skills and instills a sense of teamwork and personal accountability to the experience.

What does your team do to kick off meetings? How do you keep them engaged throughout the entire meeting?

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