Say goodbye to meetings that quickly run off track and have no actionable outcomes with these fresh approaches
We have all been stuck in meetings that either don’t need to happen in the first place or drag on and lose any ounce of effectiveness. These can be tough to sit through, especially if you’ve got better places to be!
Read on for some tips on how to create more effective meetings and alternatives to meetings.
Update how you approach running meetings
Gaining effectiveness can be as simple as making some tweaks to the traditional format. These five actions below are designs to see you ditch the outdated format of sitting around the table listening to the biggest extroverts in the room.
- Rotate the chair so that different people get to bring their own style.
- Set a simple agenda where the headings are always the same so that people can prepare in advance. For example, the most pressing issues today or this week, what is working well and what needs to change.
- Keep the meeting to its scheduled timeframe and don’t be afraid to use your phone to time it.
- Stand rather than sit to encourage short conversations that get to the point.
- Create a voting system or a phrase to quickly identify when everyone is on the same page (and therefore can move on) or identify areas that may need to be shifted offline. Try the five fingers voting system.
However, if it’s not a recurring meeting with a group of familiar faces or if it’s a 1:1 style with a customer or senior person then create a basic structure. Here’s mine:
- Confirm the point of the meeting
- Offer a brief overview of the issue at hand
- Explain your desired outcome and why
- Explain how you know you’ll have sorted the issues at hand
- Confirm follow up action points and set realistic timeframes
- Follow up with an email
These types of meetings can be nailed in 15 minutes if you control the flow of conversation and stick to the agreed topic at the outset of the meeting.
Ideas on switching up traditional meeting formats
You’ll recognise yourself in most of these situations so here’s how to flip them.
Team management and the day-to-day
Traditional: Manager/s talking at staff
Flip: Bottom-up not top-down
Description: Team members take turns to lead. Everyone brings their top three work priorities and we sometimes add in something lighter like “success this week will be… making it through the finance meeting”
Team planning sessions or away days
Traditional: Managers plan the content. Staff sit around tables listening all day.
Description: Get the team to plan out the day and what would be meaningful to them. Run an unconference. The benefit is that the team is empowered by creating the topics themselves. This results in a higher chance of buy-in will lead to a higher chance that ideas are carried forward when back in the office.
Traditional: Meetings, teleconferences and more meetings
Description: Where possible, move all conversations online. Working with a tool like Slack and trello can be a great way to collaborate with a team and is particularly handy for teams that work in different time zones or that are spread across different organisations. The meetings then become a check-in point rather than a critical requirement to keep the project moving. I have found this to be very successful and a way to ensure that additional work-related side hustles don’t creep into your main gig.
Don’t put the “ass” in assume
Take the time to assess the different personality types of your team and people you meet with regularly. It’s important that meeting structures and formats suit different personalities – even if it’s only on a rotational basis.
For example, being a fire type and an extrovert, I am prone to assuming that if anyone has something to say they will just say it. Not true. People often need a warning about the structure of the meeting and what it will be about. They need time to process and come back with ideas and it’s important to allow this to happen. Even if the feedback is via email after the meeting, give people alternatives to speaking up directly.
Don’t let meetings run your life. Change how you view meetings and claim your time back. Combined with some basic productivity hacks, you could completely change your approach to working and conquer that ever-growing to-do list!
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