We’ve all participated in awful meetings. They are the ones where you show up and are never quite clear of the purpose, or the content does not match your role or expertise, or you have a good discussion but there are no specific next steps. These meetings often feel like a huge waste of time. They are frustrating and may cause people to lose confidence in the person or organization leading.
Since social sector professionals are super busy people who are tasked with moving mountains, they certainly do not have time to waste in bad meetings.
Done well, meetings are powerful, productive, and even enjoyable. Participants should leave feeling like they connected, contributed, and clarified. Good meetings make people feel like they moved toward accomplishing something worthwhile, because they have.
Good meetings don’t just happen; they have good facilitators. The role of a facilitator is to plan ahead and then make clear points, listen and ensure all voices are heard, connect dots, clarify action steps, hold people accountable, and offer support as needed.
Solid meetings are designed with an intentional format, a clear purpose, a specific set of goals and a time-blocking structure to ensure success. Here are some time-tested techniques for how to plan your next meeting:
- Know your meeting purpose: Determine the meaning of pulling people together, make thoughtful decisions about who to include, and know what you are driving toward to make the best use of each person’s time and wisdom.
- Establish super clear meeting goals: Most meetings can only accomplish 1-3 goals. Each goal should be on-point with the purpose. Set a clear agenda that works toward accomplishing each goal.
- Structure your meeting design: Consider whether the meeting needs to be in-person or whether it can be virtual – some things to keep in mind are the outcomes needed, complexity, sensitivity, need for relationship-building vs tasks, time-needed. (see the resource link below)
- Plan your format: I use this break-down as a guide of allocated time for a 60-minute meeting:
- Relational (10%) – ongoing trust-building to connect each other as professionals with good intentions. The initial 6 minutes are relational. This might look like informal conversations or a more planned ice-breaker. Consider appreciative inquiry as a guide.
- Tactical (75%) – The middle 45 minutes are the main work and discussion of the meeting where everyone contributes. This includes clarity of the goals and moving conversations to achieve them.
- Practical (15%) – clarifying actions for accountability. The final 9 minutes should include a summary of decisions, tasks, responsible parties, deadlines and a clear date for the next meeting or check-in.
By the end of the meeting, participants should feel energized. And you as the facilitator should feel proud for leading a productive, well executed meeting. Meetings are the means to powerful results, and I wish you much success!
For additional ideas, feel free to email me.
For more information, also check out Beth Kanter’s awesome Resources for Room, Zoom, or Hybrid.