Those of us who attend formal meetings must know that they can be an excruciating form of mental torment, a monumental waste of time and a super-soporific experience to boot. But they don’t have to be any of those things. A meeting, properly prepared and managed, can be a satisfying coming-together of minds and an effective way of ensuring that decisions are made, and actions implemented, collaboratively and effectively.
I attend many meetings each month: most of them last about an hour, though some are shorter and others longer – I don’t mind, as long as they are satisfying and enjoyable. And it’s not just me. Everybody wants to come out of a meeting feeling that it was a success and, taking into consideration that not all attendees will be of like mind, this can only happen through effective management. So, if you are facilitating any kind of meeting, here are some key tips on how to make it successful, productive and enjoyable. After all, nobody wants to endure a badly facilitated meeting: life is too short.
- Scene setting. Whenever possible, welcome people into a nice light, airy, room space: it supports them to feel relaxed and ready to participate. Make sure there is an agenda, with timings, that participants have received beforehand. That way, they will have arrived prepared – or at least knowing what to expect.
- Start well. Check-in with people by asking each individual to share a few words or a short phrase on how they are feeling today. This has several benefits: it settles everyone and helps them feel more comfortable with each other; the process of hearing from everyone affirms the principle that each person has the right to speak; and the facilitator can get a sense of where people are in terms of energy levels and emotions.
- Objectives and agreement. Share the objectives of the meeting, alongside the agenda to ensure all are clear on the broad content and timings. A meeting agreement on ‘how to work together’ is also useful to draw up so that people commit to respect and listen to each other without undue ‘blaming or shaming’.
- Encourage everyone to contribute – introverts and extroverts alike. And, however serious the topic(s), be sure to allow fun to be part of the process: smiles and humour are always good for the mind and body.
- End well. Finish on time by summarising the key points and actions, specifying by whom and by when: also check the objectives have been met; announce that meeting notes will be written up and distributed; diary the next meeting as relevant; review the session (which is easily done with post-its); note at least one thing that went well and one thing that needs to change; do check outs before people leave, again encouraging each person to share how they feel and name one thing they will take from the meeting. And never forget to end with a thank you.
A final tip is ‘bring food’ – I always have with me healthy snacks with some hidden chocolate just in case…. And David Pearl’s book Will There Be Donuts is worth seeking out for its title.
Enjoy a giggle viewing this classic clip, Bloody Meetings.