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better meetings

How to have better meetings – or worse!

It’s dark outside and hundreds of thousand tiny “meeting meetings monsters” creeping out of all corners of your conference room. They must have something bad in mind, stealing your meeting agenda, sabotaging your once effective meeting and making sure you will have most unproductive meetings tomorrow … and the rest of the week … and the REST OF YOUR LIFE! Ha ha ha …

Did you also have a nightmare last night due to having to many unproductive meetings lately? Okay, time to wake up and take up the fight for better meetings in your organization!

We provide the right tools (well, no sleeping pills) against your pointless meetings nightmares.

What is a bad meeting anyway?

A nightmare meeting is, when you sit with annoying colleagues for a long time in a sterile meeting room with small windows, talking about the same thing again and again without making any decisions, while having f*** loads of work to be done on your desk before you pick up your kids.

And it’s even better when no one takes meeting notes (what for, anyway?) so you can be sure, to have the same kind of “effective meeting” tomorrow again.

better meeting

True, meetings can be a nightmare and we all know meetings like the one described before. But there is good news: ineffective meetings can be decomposed and re-engineered together with your meeting attendees to create successful meetings in the future!

Meetings suck anyway – so make the worst of it

If you want to jeopardize the chances for really effective meetings, send out meeting invitations without any warning or clue what your meeting is about! Leave it open who is the meeting facilitator and what role each individual team member has.

To jeopardize your effective meeting further, make sure to invite as many team members as possible to your meeting. Make it even worse and invite random people who you know have a lot of work on their desks, but hardly anything to contribute to your “surprise meeting”. This will create a very good mood right from the start.

When you then choose a location which is slightly too small or way too big to facilitate a group discussion, you are on a great way to have a good meeting!

Let’s talk about meeting time for a second and how to crash it. When you schedule your meeting, do not look into your team member’s calendars and be sure to select time slots that conflict with senior managers availability to prevent any final decision making in your meeting facilitation.

During your meetings, make sure, as a meeting facilitator, to encourage long monologues of the people involved. Do not interrupt off topic discussions and allow any new ideas to further complicate your agenda item topic – sorry, my fault – you do not follow any agenda in your meetings after all!

In remote teams you can additionally add some technical stuff, like poor internet connections, or broken invitation links! Research shows that remote work opened a completely new sphere of being ineffective and unproductive at work! Many great ideas!

To be honest, Harvard Business Review suggested something completely different to you as a meeting facilitator to run effective meetings – and that was 1976 and without any meeting management tools or team management software!

Meeting skills – Do better meeting preparation!

Bad meetings (be it online meetings, remote or virtual meetings, or in person meetings in the same room) most often already root in bad preparation.

The meeting agenda

So the first step for better meetings is to have a look at your agenda and make sure it is helpful for all participants. Well, maybe creating an agenda in the first place, would be a good thing to start with!

We still see too many meeting invitations without agenda or even without any clue for the meeting participants what the meeting is about. How can your team members prepare for the topic if the topic is unknown?

The meeting goal

Even better, provide a goal for all agenda items. So people know what they are aiming for in the discussion? Is it about making an informed decisions? Is it about collecting input and creative thinking? Is it about solicit feedback on some milestone? Or is it just the regular update in board meetings where direct reports present the status quo?

We have covered the question of the invite list, big meetings and the location (video conferencing vs. true online meetings or on premise in the same room) in another article about the meeting success factors, so we won’t touch it here again.

In the meeting – meeting facilitation

Response and body language are leading indicators whether your meeting is running in an efficient way. To check whether you are running an effective meeting for all attendees, just observe the body language of your meeting attendees and especially the head down effect during your meeting facilitation. When participants start checking their smartphones and laptops during the meeting, this is truely a sign you need to do better next time!

The head down effect in meetings

This head down effect in meetings indicates, you have either invited a few people for whom your topic is less relevant or you are not focussing your participants enough, allowing too much off topic conversation. Active listening is wanted, but so are diverse perspectives and relevant, topic related contributions in group discussions.

That way you save time, engage people and create a direct effect towards running effective meetings! You team’s time is precious, so please honour it!

Let your team see their own productivity

When you already are productive, make sure, your team perceives the same to establish a self-reinforcing effect to change meeting habits for good.

When your meeting is productive and your meeting is also perceived productive, the next meeting will have a great foundation of being equally successful. And meetings are preceived as effective meetings, when action items or tasks are assigned to participants. That way you ensure things get done and not only talked about.

In an efficient meeting facilitation this happens during the meeting and even in a shared space where all team members can see which action items have been assigned to whom. This transparency also creates the light and absolutely helpful “public pressure” to get one own’s tasks done.

Effective meetings – what is next?

So, these are a few simple key successfactors for effective meetings. But what’s next? How can you ensure that your team feels more productive after attending your meeting and not getting lost in another meeting cycle in another workstream with other people?

The meeting notes

Well, the meeting results speak for themselves, so let them speak for themselves! The best way to follow up on better meetings is to send out a recap email with the action items assigned and due dates. This email should be short and to the point, but most importantly it should be helpful for all participants.

Including a link to a document (e.g. a Word doc or Google docs) where all background information is stored can also help reduce meeting time and better engage people who could not attend the live meeting.

But you can be really efficient when you let someone (or something) else do the job of summing up the meeting results. What a coincidence! yowork.io does all that for you:

  • aggregating, formating and sending out meeting notes
  • sending tasks and action items to everyone’s (shared) to do lists
  • showing a timeline with all important decisions and notes to visualize the progress in your workstream

Als small step for me …

All these steps are small ones, but they have a huge impact on having or not effective meetings and ultimately more productive team members who care about what is going on around them within your organization!

These aspects create buy in from your team and all this again adds to the self-reinforcing effect mentioned above.

And with yowork.io, the meeting facilitator does not even have to have extra ordinary meeting skills! With our tool, everybody can be a great meeting manager – even without formal training of meeting skills!

Sum up having better meeting facilitation

Sounds like an action plan? Running effective meetings is neither luck nor rocket science nor just a matter of meeting skills. It’s mostly just discipline – and with yowork.io it’s even hardly that!

Because our meeting management features make it very easy and efficient to schedule, facilitate and follow up meetings – and this applies to all types of meetings: board meetings, team meetings, staff meetings, jour fixes and other regular meetings.

The meeting management feature in yowork.io supports remote teams, your on premise meeting and even telephone conferences (do you recall these?)!

Help us to save the world from nightmare meetings. The more people use it in your organization, the better the performance in your team.

Run effective meetings and check it out with your forever free account on yowork.io

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash
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