Making Meetings Matter

How can we ensure that the time we spend together – whether meeting at work to discuss the monthly sales targets or at home to plan the next meal – is meaningful to everyone involved?

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Now, more than ever, we spend a significant amount of our time in meetings. Be it in person during those ‘good old’ pre-Covid-19 days, or now in phone and video sessions, meetings play a big part in our professional and personal lives. Daily, we meet to debate, discuss, and decide.  Let’s ensure that this time is productive for all involved at the boardroom table, kitchen counter, or virtually on screen.

Creating – and adhering to – a meeting protocol is key. Don’t underestimate the importance of setting some basic rules and modelling them consistently, whether you’ve gathered with family, colleagues or your other communities. 

Consider these five tips for a more memorable meeting environment:

  1. Curate your invitation carefully. Invite only those who need to be there and help them understand why they are part of the conversation, decision or debate. Setting expectations is the first step in ensuring everyone is where they need to be. If it’s a family meeting between your oldest kids, let the younger ones know why they’re not part of the conversation. Apply the same principle at work to highlight that this isn’t an exercise in exclusion, but rather a way to respect everyone’s time and role within the team. Why you’re invited to a meeting is as important as why you’re not.  Be clear about the invitation, the purpose and the objective.
  2. Set clear expectations for each meeting, addressing the what and the why. For formal business, include an agenda directly into the meeting invitation or highlight the objective in the title of the event. For a recurring meeting, consider updating the agenda week-to-week to ensure that focus isn’t lost over time or to tweak attendance week-over-week, if needed.
  3. Forgo traditional timeframes, considering a different length for your meeting. Instead of the classic 30 minutes, can you regroup for 15? Could that weekly team touchpoint be effective in a 45-minute timeslot instead of the hour you always book? These shorter timeframes may provide the buffer you need for when a meeting runs long. They could also minimize scope creep and finetune the focus. Quality over quantity should be the way to measure interactions, of every kind.
  4. Agree on what happens next. End each meeting with a clear direction, set of next steps, and details on who does what. In fact, make ‘forward planning’ a regular part of your meeting agenda, allocating the last five minutes to this important task. Schedule time pre-meeting to prepare for eventualities and post-meeting to tackle action items. Being disciplined will help move things along wherever the discussion goes.
  5. Think differently. Gather suggestions from others to see how your meetings can become more productive – and meaningful. Whenever possible, avoid booking meetings back-to-back, in case a fruitful discussion necessitates more time. In some corporate work environments, this is easier said than done. But it’s worth a try, or at least a conversation.

Having a clear meeting protocol in place may seem like overkill. But letting people know what the expectation is will decrease frustration and ensure that the collective time we spend in meetings is worth the effort it takes to bring us all together. Whether it takes place at work, at home, or on a screen, a well-planned approach will add meaning to your meeting and the rest of your day.  

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