Since meetings are a key form of communication in most organizations, you’d expect them to be effective. But you’re painfully aware that too many meetings are long, boring and unproductive.
While you can’t fix every meeting, you can improve employee briefings or forums—those sessions designed to explain complicated topics, providing context and allowing employees to get their questions answered.
These meetings have such potential that I’ve created this mission statement for what I’d like them to be: Meetings should not only share information but also engage, motivate, educate and solve problems so that participants think and act differently as a result.
Is this possible? Absolutely.
The key concept is this: Good meetings begin at the end
By “the end,” I mean outcomes: objectives you want to achieve by getting people together. The worst meetings contain a kitchen sink full of miscellaneous stuff, messy and without direction. By contrast, the best are focused with a clear purpose. What’s the difference? Having clear objectives, of course. (You know by now that I’m a big fan of objectives, and I recommend that you use them for meetings as well as other communication.)
To decide on your focus, set one to three objectives that address at least one of the following questions:
- What will participants learn by the end of this meeting? What decision will be made?
- How will participants think differently? What will they believe?
- What actions will participants take after the meeting? What will they do?
Once you’ve set objectives, the best meetings are carefully designed to achieve them. The old-fashioned word for this design is “agenda”, but you need to do more that create a bulleted list of content to cover. You should structure your meeting to have a flow that makes sense, build in opportunities for participants to . . . well, participate, and to manage time so that you get everything done.
To get started, think of your meeting as a television talk show. Channel your inner Oprah. You’ll need a dynamic host, interesting guest, supporting visuals, and opportunities for audience (participant) feedback. Your agenda becomes a guide that helps you:
- Devote time to things that matter most
- Set aside blocks of time for important topics
- Allow adequate time for recharging, informal discussion, and relationship-building
It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Great meetings take work. But the result can be dramatic, since good meetings are memorable, helpful and meaningful.
And isn’t that what it’s all about?