For many of us, meetings are a necessary part of our day and sometimes the only way to move work forward. However, meetings can become monotonous sessions that employees and guests dread. This can quickly turn into bad meeting habits and wasted opportunity costs if left to continue. Here are a few effective meeting strategies to help shake things up and turn your meeting monotony into a more thoughtful and collaborative experience.
Turn The Agenda Into Questions
By definition, an agenda is “a list of items to be discussed at a formal meeting.” While this list can inform you what is planned to be discussed, it can:
- Feel very limiting to a participant
- Potentially prevent creativity of thought
- Not provide enough context as to what participants should prepare for
A Harvard Business Review article implies that guests can derail a meeting if they are not addressing the topic appropriately due to a lack of understanding of the agenda item.
TRY THIS: Turn topic lists into questions with a specific goal in mind so that participants understand what they are being asked to solve for, stay on topic, and may even respond in advance with enough of an answer that the topic no longer requires a meeting.
One Topic Only
Due to overlapping resources and busy calendars, we tend to schedule recurring meetings that cram in as many topics as possible. In doing so, we shortchange topics of importance and do not give them the focus they need. When this happens, we walk away from the meeting with lots of discussions but not many actionable solutions.
TRY THIS: Avoid the temptation of recurring, multi-topic meetings and schedule a meeting when needed around a single topic of focus.
There is a psychological difference in how our brains work when we sit and when we stand. As discussed in a Forbes article, standing creates just enough stress that can create more focus. And yet most of our meetings are held in meeting rooms with chairs. One reason why stand-up scrum meetings can move so quickly is the message standing up implies – this is a quick meeting so let’s get right to the point.
TRY THIS: Stand up instead of sitting down. Knowing there is even a slighter chance of output possible, think of the collective, positive effects this can have across your organization.
Vote On Priority
Meeting facilitators and managers tend to stack items on agenda templates in a variety of ways from:
- Topics that take the least to the most time
- Topics for attendees that have to leave early
- Topics they believe are most important
TRY THIS: After an agenda has been created and before the meeting, do a quick poll of which topics are most important to the guests and order the topics on the agenda in that order using a tool like Docket. If you disagree with the results, you can have a better understanding of what is important to others and have a good conversation to better align these priorities.
Block Time For Closure
Given the short amount of time we get with other people to meet and collaborate, we use up every inch of time we get discussing topics. During the session, we feel excited about the progress and the perceived alignment on the topics at hand – everything feels good at the moment. But the moment we walk away, our understanding of decisions, actions, deadlines, and outcomes can be completely different or misunderstood.
TRY THIS: Visibly block 5-10 minutes at the end of each meeting to recap decisions and actions. Walkthrough and document each item or ask others to immediately do so, creating instant understanding and clarity for all participants.
We block the time with others “just in case” or “there is always something to talk about” but should we? While it is always great to stay in touch, since many of us are working on many projects simultaneously, no one is ever truly free just because they have a meeting on their calendar to block the time. If you add up the salaries of each guest, what is the number wasted during that meeting session? (If you really want to know, check out a tool like Hourglass Calendar Insights).
TRY THIS: Ask guests in advance what topic(s) they have for the meeting ahead and decide if there is enough urgency to meet. In many cases, light topics can wait for the following meeting or there may not be anything top of mind and the meeting can be canceled.