Tips to Improve Your Meetings

Since most of us spend a good 80% or more of our time in meetings, tips on how to streamline or make our meetings more effective are always welcome.  This week I read Gina Trapani’s blog where she offered great meeting tips and an InfoQ review of a book with a few more.

I decided to chime in with a few tips I gleaned from the book, The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making. The title may be a bit off-putting, but the book is well worth it.

Even when times were good, no one I knew could afford to have a separate facilitator for each team on staff, so in place of a facilitator, substitute a team lead, and consider these three tips that could make a world of difference in your meetings:

Begin with the End in Mind

Rather than add all your worrybeads onto the Agenda,

  • Review your list of potential topics
  • Define the overall goal for each topic
  • Toss out what can be handled Before the Meeting and what can wait until After the Meeting
  • Identify specific outcomes for the remaining topics

Make sure the subject of your meeting is crystal clear.

Meaning that you understand…

  • The Topic and the Outcome you want to reach.
    Both need to be understood by everyone at the meeting.  Whether you write the Topic and Outcome on a whiteboard, at the top of a MindMap you’re creating real-time during the meeting or on a slide you’ve shared in your NetMeeting, everyone should understand the Topic statement and the intended Outcome, so we’re not making assumptions that could lead us in different directions.
  • The Process you want to use to reach each Outcome.
    Most meetings drone on in unending open discussion of the topic.  The author suggests that once you know the Outcome you want to achieve, you should divide the time into sections to facilitate better discussion: for example, Brainstorming on Alternatives, Categorizing, and then Open discussion.

Don’t try to solve a Big Hairy Problem in one meeting.

Big Hairy Problems with multiple points of view that are “solved” quickly are often revisited when we discover that we did not get buy-in from everyone.  Feel free to space out the process for achieving your outcome by holding additional meetings to help your team understand the other points of view involved and build a sustainable agreement.  I know this sounds horrible – more meetings?  But trust me on this one, if the solution is not accepted by everyone, you will have another meeting to discuss how the current “solution” failed to solve the problem and then another meeting to draft a new “solution.”

Do you have any other tips for improving meetings?  Leave me a comment or send me a Tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

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