How to Make Your Meeting Great Before it Even Starts

clip-art00201How many boring meetings have you gone to?

Lots, I’ll bet.

I’ve been to more meetings than I care to remember that had no impact on me at all. And they probably didn’t make much of an impact on anyone else either.

What Does a Blah Meeting Look Like?

Someone calls the meeting to order and passes out the agenda. People report on stuff. The chair asks for questions. Discussion is lackluster. Meeting adjourns. Blah.

Everyone slumps out with their thoughts tucked safely away between their ears.

A few people stop to exchange their ideas privately in the hall or the parking lot.  But their ideas, some of which are insightful, are lost to the larger group.

With a Bit of Forethought, You Can Have a Vibrant Meeting

With just a bit of thoughtful design, even your basic meeting can have something memorable in it for everyone.

To understand how a good meeting works, think about this:

You tend to remember what you say more than what other people say. So to run a great meeting, design it so that everyone participates!

When you actively participate, you pay closer attention.  When you pay attention, you hear and learn and think.  And when you hear and learn and think… no more blah meeting!

So, to have a lively, memorable meeting, you’ve got to design it in a way that gets everyone participating.

Great Meetings are Great Because Everyone Participates

For a lively meeting, you’ve got to plan more than the content.  You’ve got to DESIGN and plan the group process, too.

Here are three simple steps that’ll make a BIG difference in your next meeting.

1. Start the meeting from the get-go by asking everyone to say something.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to pose an easy topic and then go around the table asking each person to comment briefly. You can ask them to comment on how they’re feeling or what they hope for out of the meeting or any number of other simple topics.

2. Share responsibility for the agenda.

Ask different people to handle various parts of the meeting. Just because you’re the convener doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do it all. Though it takes a bit of work in advance, sharing responsibility for running the meeting sets it up for success.

3. End the meeting with comments from everyone.

Don’t just adjourn the meeting and let the comments happen in the parking lot. End the meeting with another round of comments. This time you might ask people to comment about the meeting itself or about what’s ahead.

And as you did at the beginning, go around the entire group and give everyone an equal share of speaking time.

Lastly, if there are any questions from your participants, be sure to encourage discussion without any judgment. That will help your group to really open up.

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Plan Engagement into Your Next Meeting

The next time you are responsible for a meeting, don’t just plan the content. Put some thought into designing the way the people who are at the meeting will participate.

Start and end the meeting by asking every person for a few words. Starting that way will set the tone for the meeting. And ending that way will pull the group together before it disbands.

What experiences have you had with meetings that have worked really well? Share what made them work so well in the comments.