How to Be Known for Leading Great Meetings-Part 1

If you’re like the thousands of business professionals I’ve worked with over the past thirty years most of the meetings you attend are frustrating, lack focus, start late and run long. Sometimes you wonder why you’re in the room, too often you can’t figure out what the meeting is trying to achieve, and frequently you want to scream, “Who’s running this meeting?”  The brain ache is even worse when you’re the one who called the unproductive meeting.

You can immediately improve the way people think about meetings you lead by remembering two rules:

  1. We move towards that which we think about so always know your desired outcomes and draft an agenda to make sure the meeting is successful.
  2. Break through meeting clutter with active facilitation.

I’ll talk about active facilitation in part 2 of my focus on how to lead great meetings (this Friday). For now let’s focus on desired outcomes and agendas.

You wouldn’t get into your car and drive without knowing where you want to go. A meeting is a trip of sorts. And it focuses your meeting to start with your end in view (a variation on Stephen Covey’s “end in mind”). You must know where you want to go in your meeting — your desired outcomes — in order to ensure that you’ll get there at the end. And, like a drive, you have to think through which roads you’ll take and where you might want to stop — your agenda.

Your desired outcomes need to be crystal clear. For example, “at the end of this meeting we want to have three new ideas about XYZ,” or “group consensus about ABC,” or “clear understanding re: our individual responsibilities moving forward to execute this program.”

Your agenda shouldn’t be a laundry list of 20 items you want to discuss. We’ve all been in meetings with a page-long agenda and those same meetings rarely moved beyond the first few discussion items…typically not the most important issues which were for some reason saved for last. Instead, craft a three-part agenda. “We’re here to discuss three things,” is so much more memorable and motivational than, “Let’s get started because we have to talk about 20 problem spots…” or even said more positively, “15 areas of opportunity…” You can almost see the eyes glazing over.

A good meeting facilitator opens the meeting with a clear statement of the desired outcomes and a quick overview of the agenda. Your meeting will be even more successful if you distributed the desired outcomes and agenda in advance of the meeting to allow your meeting participants to think about the topics. The advance thought and focus will absolutely elevate the level of discussion during the meeting.

Tune back in on Friday for part 2 to learn about active meeting facilitation.

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