We sit in so many meetings, but how many are satisfying? I cringe remembering bad meetings I’ve run. That’s why I’m passionate now about preparation. I guess I value time (mine and others) more than I used to.
After all, a one hour meeting of 6 people means 6 hours of time away from other work. That’s worth some preparation instead of “winging it,” isn’t it?
I think of holding a meeting like building a house: I need a strong frame. That requires good plans, and a crew that knows what they’re going to do and when, materials at the right time, a good structure and a plan for bad weather and delays.
Floor plan: I used to think a good agenda was a list of topics. Can you imagine a floor plan that was just a list of rooms? I now determine my goal for each item on my agenda – sharing info, brainstorming, a decision? I determine priorities – what’s most important to accomplish. I allot the time. If I’ll have six people and I want everyone’s participation, I do the math. Two or three minutes for each person to speak means at least 12 – 15 minutes for that topic, plus questions and conclusions.
Crew and materials: I try to make sure the right people are at the meeting with the appropriate materials to work with. I don’t want to waste time if the decision makers or influencers aren’t there or we don’t have the data we need. I try to clarify what’s expected of them and make sure they all do their share of the work – that some people don’t dominate and others sit quiet.
Structure: I pay attention to creating a good structure in the meeting itself. including what will be part of the discussion and what won’t. It’s so easy to be distracted. I don’t want to begin to build a bedroom and end up with the kitchen cabinets in it by mistake. I make sure to have what I call strong thresholds – good beginnings and good endings, with time for clarifying decisions, accountability, and next steps.
Bad weather: Conflict arises. Complexities surface. Sometimes issues just need more time than allotted, so priorities rule. What needs the time? If I decide I want a bigger bathroom, I may need to steal space from my bedroom, but I do it on purpose, not by mistake.
A good house can’t be built without a good strong frame. A good meeting needs the same attention to structure.
When is your next meeting? How can you strengthen the frame?