In 1994, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and two other Pixar executives had a lunch meetingwhere they hatched the ideas for “Monsters Inc.,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Wall-E,” and “Finding Nemo.” That one meeting changed film history forever.
But, not all meetings are that productive.
Because people don’t enjoy them.
“Yes, meetings can be incredibly valuable as the live interaction is absolutely critical for brainstorming and building consensus,” says Chris Hummel, CMO of Schneider Electric. But, sadly, the one thing on everyone’s mind in most meetings is, “How can I get out of here?” he says.
Most meetings aren’t run efficiently or effectively; they’re disorganized and boring — and people end up losing a lot of precious time that could be better spent elsewhere, he explains. “Worse, if bad meetings become a regular habit, they can begin to corrode the corporate culture. I’ve seen companies where people actually spend more time talking about how much they hated a particular meeting than the time the meeting actually took,” he says.
The person who calls the meeting has to organise it in a way that everyone can contribute and get something out of it. “You’re calling them there because you want participation — they should know that and be ready to contribute,” Hummel says. Otherwise, there are far better ways to simply disseminate information.
Here are seven tips for running a productive meeting that people might actually enjoy:
1. Tell everyone in advance what the meeting will be about. Also, make sure all context, reports, information, and presentations are available beforehand. “Conversations will be much richer if everyone comes to the meeting prepared,” he says.
2. Start on time. In fact, make sure you arrive a couple of minutes early to get all the admin pieces out of the way, get something to drink, log in into the web conference, and find the necessary material, Hummel says. “So often, we spend the first 10 minutes of every meeting, especially online meetings, passing around documents, sorting out login codes, starting the video, and tracking down participants.”
3. Check in with everyone. “Assuming there’s not a mass audience, invest the first three to five minutes on a personal and professional check in,” Hummel suggests. Everyone feels more comfortable with a little icebreaker.
4. Review the agenda and expectations as the first official item. “Don’t wait too long for stragglers; it’s their responsibility to catch up,” he says.
5. Encourage participation. If you’re the boss or the organiser, be careful that you don’t shut everyone else out by laying out your opinion first. “The easiest tool to get people to participate? Ask them questions,” Hummel says.
6. Recap. Have the discipline to formally close the meeting with a recap of specific tasks to confirm mutual expectations, he says.
7. Have fun. People spend most of the waking hours at work and want to collaborate and build with each other. “Meetings are one of the few places where you can have interaction with people you might otherwise not engage with,” he explains. “Don’t let them devolve into a form of punishment.”
If you run meetings effectively, you won’t waste time. “More importantly, meetings are designed for people to engage with one another, not just exchange information,” Hummel says. “There are so many ways for people to broadcast information. The objectives of meetings, whether in-person or virtual, should be to create value and enhance the topic being discussed. In this way, objectives get met faster, and the morale of everyone involved goes up,” he concludes.
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