The Three Most Important Components Of Any Meeting

I have a love/hate relationship with meetings.

I love them when they’re necessary.
I hate them when they’re full of unnecessary elements (like my presence).

I love them when they move us forward.
I hate them when they don’t move us any closer to our goal.

I love them when they take less time than allotted.
I hate them when they take more time than needed.

I love them when they clarify.
I hate them when they confuse.

I love them when I know what’s required of me at the end.
I hate them when I wonder why I was required to attend.

photo credit: Arne Hendriks via photopin cc

photo credit: Arne Hendriks via photopin cc

Meetings have to happen if we’re going to take a group of people and accomplish something worthwhile. The difficulty lies in knowing how to create meetings people will love rather than the kind people will hate.

One of the tools I use to gauge the effectiveness of my meetings is to measure the energy level of the group. I compare the level at the start of the meeting with the energy level of everyone at the end of the meeting. The goal is to increase the energy everyone has toward accomplishing the stated goal or outcome of the meeting. Over time, I’ve seen the effective use of the following three components raise the energy level in most every meeting.

1. Time

It’s not that people don’t like meetings, it’s that they don’t see them as a good use of their time. Start on time…always. End on time…or better yet, end early. One of the best ways you can show respect to another person is to respect his or her time. When you start late, the tardy people get reward and the punctual people get punished. Meetings are often perceived as an interruption. People are busy. Do everything you can to be intentional with the amount of time scheduled.

2. Engagement

Attendance to your meeting may be mandatory, but attention must be earned. (click here to tweet that)

It’s helpful to tell people why their attendance is needed at the meeting. Tell them why they are there. State the outcome you want to achieve as a result of this meeting. Keep the group focused. Do your best to remove distractions (sometimes cell phones, tablets, and laptops are a way to check out of a meeting). The level of engagement will increase when each person at the meeting is invested in achieving the outcome of the meeting.

3. Action Items

A meeting that doesn’t accomplish or assign action items is usually unnecessary. If all you need to do is get information out to a group of people, please consider canceling your meeting and sending everyone an email. The most effective meetings involve a decision. Something needs to be solved. Something needs to be done. Every meeting needs a written record of the decisions that were made and the action items that were accomplished or assigned.

Action items need to be as specific as possible.

– You can accomplish this by starting every action item with a verb. For example, Call the rental company and to confirm the reservation.
– Make sure that each action item is clear and measurable (we’ll be able to know when it’s accomplished).
– Put one person in charge of each action item. If you assign it to a group of people, it will create confusion and lack accountability.
– Every action item should include a date in the future when it will be accomplished.

There are a lot of resources and tools that you can use to enhance the effectiveness of your meetings. I consider the three components listed above to be non-negotiables. If you can only focus on a few things, focus on these three. Get good at these three components and you’ll notice a boost in the energy level of the people you’ve gathered around the table.