Friday, 5 December 2014

Revolution now! My Manifesto for meetings!


Do you come away from meetings feeling like it was a waste of time? With no clearer idea of who is doing what and how these actions will contribute to your organisation? All too often meetings fall short of the mark so last year I wrote my manifesto to #makemeetingscount. I want more meetings to be a rewarding experience. Rather than leaving everyone wishing they could get the last hour of their life back!  Want engaged employees and committed partners? Revamp how you communicate with them face-to-face. This manifesto has already helped lots of teams to re-energise their internal communications. And I hope it helps you too. Make your next meeting count and let me know your thoughts on the manifesto.

MANIFESTO for meetings!

Set the direction
Focus on the outcome(s) before you book time in the diary. What decisions or actions absolutely need to be made or completed at the meeting? If it’s worth other people committing time, even travelling, to your meeting then the purpose needs to be clear.

Keep your meetings short - aim for 30 minutes. It’ll help everyone stay focused as no-one likes meetings overrunning. If you need more time to launch a new project or bring a dispersed team together, arrange a longer meeting. But break it into 20-30 minute chunks, led by different members of the team and focus on just one or two decisions or actions in each session.

Craft an agenda that makes people want to be at your meeting. Write at the top of your agenda exactly what everyone is committing to achieve by coming to the meeting. “By the end of this meeting we will have shortlisted our new campaign strapline". Structure your agenda to focus on achieving these objectives from start to finish. Unrelated, long-winded discussion items tire your attendees and erode their goodwill. They'll either be itching to get to the meat of the agenda or get away.

Circulate the agenda well in advance - ideally with the initial meeting appointment. Encourage them to get in contact if they don’t think the meeting's purpose or what they can contribute are clear or correct. You don’t want people sleepwalking into your meeting. Neither do you want them reluctantly sitting there playing with their Blackberrys. They'll suck the energy from the room!

Prepare, prepare, prepare
Make the meeting a teleconference or Google hangout if you can. Everyone's time is valuable. Show you understand and respect this by not forcing people to travel unless there's a good reason to do so.

Choose a room that's appropriate for the type of physical meeting. It’s so obvious but it's often overlooked. An oppressively hot or painfully cold, windowless room will turn your meeting into a joyless hell. Insufficient chairs or doing group work around a boardroom table won't create an inclusive atmosphere that is conducive to getting things done.

When people start to arrive, make sure you're not flapping with a laptop and projector. Sort the tech gremlins out early then spend your time welcoming everyone and warming them up for a productive meeting.

A week in advance
- circulate anything that needs reading. Otherwise you'll spend half of your 30 minute meeting getting everyone up to speed.
- take 5 minutes to talk to session leader for longer meetings. Encourage them to find ways to vary how they deliver their 20-30 minutes to keep those attending engaged. No one wants to see back-to-back PowerPoint presentations!

Lead it
Start the meeting on time and end on time. It’s unprofessional not to start and end on time, as is turning up late. Don’t make allowances. And if you only need some attendees for specific items, show respect for their time by letting them leave early.

At the start recap the objectives. At the end evaluate whether you've achieved them. Give everyone the opportunity to comment on what worked well and suggest changes to make future meetings more effective.  

Chair effectively. This means avoiding common issues, like one person dominating the discussion. Thank them for the contributions and keep inviting others to voice their thoughts. Don’t allow someone in the room to lead you off on a tangent either. Keep a blank sheet of paper on the wall to ‘park’ other issues to pick up with the individual after the meeting. This shows you’re not dismissing the issue they’ve raised whilst not knocking you off course.

Record and circulate the meeting outcomes within 48 hours. Make sure any actions to progress outside the meeting have a clear lead and timescales attached. The real measure of how energised your employees are when they leave is how quickly they complete their actions.

And finally an ask for meeting attendees everywhere. Don't be afraid to challenge the purpose of meetings, why they need you there, and whether travel is really needed.

#makemeetingscount Joe Baker 2014
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