Jared

Educator

Leader

Entrepreneur

Jared

Educator

Leader

Entrepreneur

Public Relations

The Perfect Meeting

July 15, 2020 Blog

If I were teaching this to an audience and asked for a show of hands on how many people want less meetings at their work, chances are 90% would raise their hand.

The issue is: meetings are necessary. For a few crucial reasons:

  1. Social interaction – whether you work for a small business or a large one, or whether you classify as an introvert or extrovert, everyone feeds off of some level of social interaction. For some organizations, meeting times are the only time they work with another human during the day
  2. Communication – they keep everyone in the loop. Especially due to the pandemic and how the workplace has rapidly shifted to a remote scenario, it’s becoming increasing more important to communicate via meetings since there are more informal get togethers in the office
  3. Strategy – this is the opportunity for your team to come together and collectively overcome problems or plan the next step by step approach to growing your company

Let’s be honest – although they’re clearly important, most people are doing meetings wrong. They waste precious time, which no one can afford to waste, and are rarely productive. That’s probably why this is one of the biggest things I’ve been asked to write about.

If we can change the landscape of traditional meetings, then we can change how we view them, and end up having a far more productive team. Our company isn’t perfect, but we do a few things pretty well, and one of those is how we do meetings. 

First, let’s identify why we even have them. I think there’s generally 3 types of meetings:

  • Regularly scheduled meetings with consistent agendas (like one we have on Monday morning called a “Heads Up Meeting”, which I highly recommend and cover at the end) 
  • A scheduled meeting to address a non-consistent topic (like launching new Vegan meals)
  • Last-minute meetings that are scheduled quickly with a specific purpose, most likely because of a recent change or an emergency (like a Pickup Spot shutting down without notice, and us having to reroute certain clients)

Quick hack: if this is something you can handle with a FaceTime, phone call or email, then don’t do a meeting. Avoid any unnecessary meetings at all costs. This helps to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and maintain and emphasize the value of the meetings you actually do need. 

HERE ARE 6 TIPS FOR RUNNING PERFECT MEETINGS:

  1. Host it virtually, if possible.

If you have a remote team, then you are probably already used to this. I think there’s definitely a luxury to in person meetings, and it can be much more effective than virtual meetings. But in 2020, time is our greatest currency, so it makes sense to save time (from the commute, getting dressed up, etc) on meeting somewhere if you can. 

  1. Keep them as short as possible and to the point. Why?

According to University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs, everyone has a limited amount of cognitive resources — and once they’re depleted, we start making bad decisions. 

Bad decisions could be bad notes, forgetting actionable items, or simply giving low-quality input. 

Also, if you become known for hosting long, drawn-out and unnecessary meetings, then people will become even more resistant to engaging in them out of fear of them lasting longer. (who remembers that kid who always raised his hand at the end of class?)

Create a meeting people can expect to contribute, be engaged, and leave with energy left in the tank and a new mission to work on. 

How do we do this? This leads to TIP #3

  1. Have a relevant agenda, clear objectives and stick with it. Why?

Research has actually found little to no relationship between the presence of an agenda and attendees’ evaluation of meeting quality. What matters is not the agenda itself but the relevance and importance of what’s on it, and how the leader facilitates discussion of the agenda items.

Additionally, everyone should know what the end goal of the meeting is…

So, for “regularly scheduled meetings” (1), there should be a pretty consistent agenda that people are prepared for. Any additional items should be clearly communicated ahead of time. For a “scheduled meeting for a non-consistent topic” (2), your meetings attendees should have an idea of the item(s) that will be addressed, and how they can be prepared to contribute. For “last minute meetings”(3), it’s hard to create specific expectations, but that’s where TIP #4 will help. 

If your meeting doesn’t have an agenda or anything important to address, then you don’t really need a meeting. 

  1. Set a start and finish time and stick to it as closely as possible. 

This one is equally as important as the rest, but there’s an acceptable margin of error. If your meeting is expected to be from 10 to 11, and you have to finish at 11:05 to cover all the items, then that’s fine. But don’t lead meetings that last 2-3 hours, when they were supposed to be 1. If you haven’t covered all the items in your meeting agenda because a few of the earlier ones required more in-depth conversation; that’s okay. Just schedule another short meeting for later in the day or the next day, if possible. 

Honestly, I just wouldn’t have 2 – 3 hour long meetings. I would break them up over a day or a few days, if there is that much to cover. For a small business, most likely your team has other responsibilities, and they are already thinking of them after an hour goes by. 

Going back to TIP #2, keep your meetings as short as possible. If you have to have a 2-3 hour long meeting, then have 10-15 minute breaks every hour. 

  1. Empower others on your team to exchange roles during meetings (speaking, transcribing, etc) and encourage participation, instead of having the same person (most likely you) lead and speak each time. 

Why?

First, because meetings are fundamentally collective experiences, allowing other voices is only appropriate. Second, when employees are encouraged to openly share their thoughts and ideas – and the leader actually listens to those ideas — they’re more likely to feel a greater sense of commitment to the team and the organization. This, in turn, leads to a more engaged meeting attendee.

  1. *Be present. 

This means a few things, though:

  • No disturbances; turn your phone over and stop looking at your emails. Meetings are irrelevant if you plan on multi-tasking, and the same goes for your attendees. 
  • Be available for any necessary, unplanned dialogue. Although you want to stick to your agenda, it’s these short conversations in between topics that drive creativity and mesh your company culture. AKA Be results driven, but don’t be a robot.

HERE ARE EXAMPLES OF 5 THINGS WE COVER IN OUR WEEKLY “HEADS UP MEETINGS” ON MONDAY MORNING:

  1. Prayer / Praise

Because I’m a Christian, and I’m a leader, I operate as a Christian leader; so we have a prayer list and that’s something we do each week. If you’re not comfortable with that, then “prayer” can simply be substituted with the items that are most important to your company and your team. We do praise to reinforce the importance of reflecting on the accomplishments from the week prior, no matter if they seem small in hindsight.

  1. Personal / Professional “Win of the Week” (individual)

Much like #1, except this is individual.  We identify a win of the week in our personal lives, and in our professional lives. 

For example:

  • (professional) I saved an upset client from canceling 
  • (personal) celebrated July 4th with my family and there was no fam drama
  1. Review Company Goals (SMART)
  1. Review previous week’s 
  2. Review upcoming week’s
  1. Personal Goals (with positive reinforcements)

Why?

The research on goal setting tells us that goals energize, focus attention, and promote persistence, all of which lead to better performance. Whether it’s individual or a group goal, setting goals has been proven to promote group performance. 

  1. What Did you Learn?

This is usually the most fun. I’m addicted to learning, so naturally that is the type of culture I like to create. Although I’m biased, I think everyone company should promote learning as a habit, so each week, everyone brings a few things to the table that they learned last week. It doesn’t have to be specific to what we do either, just something note-worthy that they learned. 

I hope reviewing what we do on Monday helps inspire a new flow for your weekly meetings!

In conclusion, these are the 6 tips for running perfect meetings:

  1. Host it virtually, if possible.
  2. Keep them as short as possible and to the point.
  3. Have a relevant agenda, clear objectives and stick with it. 
  4. Set a start and finish time and stick to it as closely as possible. 
  5. Empower others on your team to exchange roles during meetings and encourage participation, instead of having the same person lead and speak each time. 
  6. Be present. 
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