Design Agency CEO Shares His Secrets on Running Successful Meetings - Docket

Design Agency CEO Shares His Secrets on Running Successful Meetings

Do you have any meeting pet peeves? Are you struggling to find the best way to structure meetings or get all participants on-board and prepared before a meeting begins? You’re not alone! We chatted with Steve Pruden, CEO of design and innovation consultancy Studio Science and active SaaS board member, advisor and early stage investor, on meeting best practices—as well as meeting don’ts.

Steve is an active member of the Indianapolis startup and tech community, and with that level of participation and experience comes the necessity of prioritizing time. Part of running, or being included in, a successful meeting is making sure all key stakeholders:

  • Are present: Is everyone who needs to be in this meeting available?
  • Are prepared: Does everyone have the information they need to bring their action-items/questions/comments to the meeting?
  • Know the end goal: Was is the point of this meeting? Have a clear goal(s) set for the meeting conclusion (i.e. approval on a specific item, buy-in for a new project or idea, etc.)

Dig in to our interview with Steve as he shares his best meeting experiences, pet peeves, and what he recommends always going into every meeting with in order to for it to be successful.

DOCKET: What role do you usually perform in meetings? Are you an organizer, participant, both? How do you set yourself up for success in either of these roles?
STEVE PRUDEN: I’m both an organizer of our executive team meetings and a participant.  Knowing what role I will play in each meeting, what the purpose of the meeting is, and where to find information before and after the meeting are the keys to being successful, no matter what role I’m playing.

What’s been the most productive meeting culture you’ve been a part of, and what factors drove that productivity?
I’ve seen the most productive meeting culture at organizations that role model good meeting behavior at all levels of the organization. One where executives arrive on-time, have agendas, share purposes and desired outcomes ahead of time. One where all of the meeting notes, pre-reads, agendas, and minutes are easy to find. Good meeting culture requires discipline and the right technology platforms to work well.

Do you have any pet peeves around meetings? (i.e. people on their phones)
Absolutely! One is showing up late, or not finishing on time. It’s completely unacceptable (especially the higher you get in an organization) to expect all others to bend to your schedule. Meetings have a defined end-time, so it’s also disrespectful to others to require them to stay late. When you’re in a meeting you should be present, know your role in the discussion, and limit distractions.  Communication tools like email, Slack, text, etc., have no place in meetings. Showing up to a meeting with no purpose, desired outcome, or agenda is a big pet peeve of mine—why have the meeting if there’s no purpose?

What are one or two things you have, or make sure are complete, before going into a meeting?
I want to know what the purpose of the meeting is, and what the desired outcome is. Agendas can sometimes be fluid, but if everyone knows why the meeting is happening and what we expect to get out of the meeting then we’re moving in the right direction.

Do you have any best practices around accepting or rejecting meetings? For example, is there a type of meeting you’ve declined in the past because it wasn’t necessary? What helped you determine that?
Always give a reason for rejecting a meeting: it could be a scheduling conflict, uncertainty on the value I may bring to a meeting, or any number of reasons.  You can’t assume a meeting organizer knows why—make that explicit. Holding ourselves accountable to building and maintaining an effective meeting culture is why it is sometimes necessary to decline a meeting. It should be expected that if a meeting is ambiguous, starts late, or can’t finish on time, should be rethought by the meeting organizer. I’ve declined meetings due to all of those things—I expect my team to decline my meetings if I exhibit that behavior, too!

Recap: Meeting Pro Tips

Here’s a recap of Steve’s pro tips for running and participating in a productive meeting environment:

Don’t assume anything: This goes for both roles as the organizer and the participant. If you’re asked to be a part of a meeting, and you’re uncertain of your value, be vocal about those concerns to the organizer. Expect others to do the same for you, too, if roles are reversed.

Embrace technology—as long as it pertains to the productivity of the meeting: Technology tools can be great for planning and organizing a meeting to get all stakeholders on the same page and prepared with the right information before the meeting takes place. But, the buck stops there! Meaning, shut down your cell phone, Slack messages, and close your computer (unless, of course, you’re taking notes.) Be present and provide the level of attention to the meeting that you would expect from others.

Have a central log of all necessary notes, next steps, etc.: Per Steve, in order for meetings to be planned and executed effectively, make all meeting notes, pre-reads, agendas, and minutes easy to find. Do you have your own success strategies for meetings? Tweet us your tips @docketmeetings!

About the Author

Heather Hansson

Heather is VP of Product and Chief of Staff at Docket. She enjoys leading cross-functional teams to work together on vision, strategy, and implementing solutions that help people work and live better. When she isn’t helping rid the world of wasteful meetings with Docket, Heather likes to run, take violin lessons with her son, and spend time with her family.

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