5 Elements of Successful Meetings by Gary Hochman

As a consultant to managers and executives in a variety of organizations, I’ve participated in every sort of meeting imaginable. Upon reflection, there are just a few factors that seem to separate the great meetings from the average ones.

1. The Right Participants

Begin here by carefully considering who needs to be in the meeting. Too often, participants are invited so they don’t feel excluded or offended, or because they report to the meeting leader on the org chart. To engage in an energetic and purposeful meeting, participants must have a reason for attending; a point of view, a need to know, the authority to make a decision, or useful information, that will shape the topic and drive closure.

2. An Agenda Provided Before the Meeting

Sounds obvious, but agendas are the blueprints for building successful meetings. They are indispensable tools that keep meetings on track, help participants to prepare and understand their roles, and clearly define the objectives. A good agenda will also identify the purpose of each topic (e.g. Is this topic for information only or do we need a decision?). Many teams use the same basic agenda, week after week, for their routine meetings. While this practice is well intended, it misses the point. These agendas may offer an outline of the meeting, but they don’t contain adequate detail to set expectations, help members prepare, and galvanize the group to accomplish its goals. Each meeting deserves a unique agenda.

3. Facilitation

Skilled facilitation makes an enormous difference in the quality of a meeting, whether it comes from the meeting leader, the members, or a designated participant in the meeting. A facilitator pays attention to process and is mindful of the following questions: Is the group staying on topic? How are decisions made? Who is doing the talking? Who is interrupting? How is conflict managed? How can we improve the quality of our meetings? A good facilitator knows how to intervene graciously to help the participants become conscious of the process and derive maximum benefit from their meeting.

4. Clear Conclusions and Next Steps

How often have you attended meetings when the follow-through you expect does not occur? The time to fix that problem is before you move to the next agenda item. At the conclusion of an agenda topic, ask, ”So, who can summarize what we just discussed? What did we decide? What are the next steps?” You might be surprised how often members are unclear exactly what was agreed upon.

5. Opportunities For Creativity and Participation

Most meetings are conducted as a sequence of topics for information sharing, either tops-down or in a go-round fashion. The communication flow is primarily one-way, with little opportunity for members to contribute perspective, energy, curiosity, and creativity. If our only purpose is to deliver information, consider using e-mail or voice mail rather than a meeting. Management time is precious and there is little reason to convene people if we expect them to be passive. On the other hand, we can utilize meetings as an invaluable opportunity to bring multiple perspectives into the room in order to collaborate, debate, decide, and perform the real work of a team.

If you or a member of your organization wants help orchestrating more effective meetings, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would be delighted to help. Contact Us

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