A quick survey around any office and I am sure that the answer will be the same in most organisations. When asked, What makes a great meeting? most people will respond with the following;
1. A fast meeting is a good meeting.
2. The purpose is clearly defined.
3. Everyone gets a chance to speak and be heard.
4. We walk out knowing exactly what needs to be done next.
An agenda should be attached to the meeting invite, this is an important step to covering off the first two points made above. An agenda should clearly outline the purpose of the meeting. The agenda should also take into account the time allocated for the meeting and be appropriate for the time allowed. If everyone walks into the room knowing what will be discussed, it will be easier to get to the point and keep the meeting to the designated time.
The agenda should also specify what preparation is required for the meeting. Do you need your team to register for something, login or review a system? For you StrategyConnect Kick-Off meeting, for example, it may be a good idea to get everyone to have already logged into the system and have a look around. So it is not completely foreign to them when you start the process.
If you are seeking opinions or answers the agenda can be put forward as a series of questions. This will help the meeting participants be adequately prepared to answer the questions.
Another way to run a tight and efficient meeting is to only invite those who are vital to the process. As the strategy champion, you will have a fair idea on who will have actionable responsibilities as a result of the meeting and who will add the most value in the process.
These tips all relate to pre-work before the meeting. Once in the meeting, it is important as the facilitator acknowledges the participants allowing time in their schedule for the meeting. If you have acknowledged that you recognise the value of their time, they will show you the same respect of your time. In a study conducted by Bain & Company, a staggering amount of corporate hours are swallowed up by meetings - 7000 hours a year just to the “weekly senior meeting” which leads to 20,000 hours of preemptive department meetings which required 63,000 hours of team meetings and 210,000 hours of “preparatory” meetings. 300,000 hours a year stemming from one meeting at the top-level.
Your role as facilitator is to keep the meeting on track and moving in the right direction. It is also important to set a positive tone for the meeting from the onset and ensure everyone feels heard.
Ensuring everyone is heard is a particularly challenging task and needs to be handled in a positive way. If the groups start to get distracted by tangents — make a note of the conversation and ask if you can address these topics offline at another time.
Lastly, summarise the outcomes of the meetings and ensure everyone is aware of their action items. Send out a follow-up email after the meeting that lists next steps, who’s responsible for them, and when they are due.
Here are some extra resources on running effective meetings:
- Harvard Business Review: How to Design Meetings Your Team will Want to Attend by Paul Axtell.
- Forbes.com How to Run Meetings that Matter, by Kevin Kruse