We spend hours every day either in meetings, getting ready for them, or following up after them. Well-run meetings ensure superior teamwork and collaboration, and improve productivity and strengthen morale.
Yet, we’ve all had the experience of leaving a meeting wondering why the dialogue stopped or the conversation wasn’t as productive as we’d hoped. The discussion drifted toward topics not part of the agenda, and time—already at a premium in our high-pressure day—was wasted.
Here are a few basics to be sure your next meeting is on time and on target.
Start with good meeting etiquette:
- Invite the right people—only true stakeholders and decision makers on the topic at hand.
- Create an agenda and send it in advance with any pre-reads.
- Get to the meeting room early to be certain the technology you need is working.
- Start on time.
- Introduce everyone, including the people who are dialing in.
- Appoint someone to take notes on conclusions and follow up items and email these to all participants after the meeting.
Moderate the discussion skillfully to be sure the discussion is meaningful and on point:
- Refer to the agenda throughout the discussion, moving through it point by point.
- If the discussion starts to drift, refocus the group by moving on to the next item on the agenda. (This practice has the added benefit of helping everyone track the discussion and plan their energy and contributions.)
- Encourage all participants to contribute:
“Joe, did you want to add anything based on your experience with _________?”
“Who agrees with Liz?”
“Cindy, I know you’ve done work on something similar. Any insights to share?”
“Enrique, what does ‘executional excellence’ mean to you?”
- Compliment contributions:
“That’s an excellent point/great idea. Let’s build on that.”
- Reflect back:
“What I’m hearing you say is…”
“Would it be fair to say that what you mean is…”
- Probe deeper:
“What do you mean by that?”
“What’s a good example of that idea in action?”
“Can you quantify that on a scale from one to five?”
“How many people/teams does that involve?”
“How long has that been happening?”
If the conversation lags, give it a kickstart:
“So far, we’ve said _________. What additional ideas come to mind?”
Ask “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why?” and “How?” questions: “Who else has experience with this?” “What needs to happen in order to… ” “How do you think a customer would react if…”
Stay focused on the main points and the purpose of the discussion. Key phrases for returning to the topic under discussion:
“It looks like we’ve drifted from the main topic. Let’s get back to our focus on…”
“Let’s summarize these points so we can keep moving.”
“We’re now talking about _______, which has taken us away from the main point of this discussion: _____. Let’s get back on track.”
- Close the meeting on time.
- Ask for ownership of any outcomes/key deliverables: “Who’d be willing to take that on?”
Relax and enjoy the discussion!