Jill Greenbaum, Ed.D.
“What a great meeting!”
When is the last time you said that? While I am hoping that it was recently, my guess is that it’s been a while. Think back to that moment… What drew you to that conclusion?
- What made it great?
- Where were you?
- Who were you with at the time?
- How did you feel before, during, and after the meeting?
Let’s extrapolate from your memories/the information you just generated. What’s your vision of an outstanding meeting? What are the elements of such a meeting?
What elements need to be in place for it to happen?
Take a moment to pause and reflect on what happened, and how it happened. What are you realizing? Is it that the actual elements of the meeting are, in and of themselves, not complex, yet often are not applied consistently or completely?
I think of three simple phases to Delicious Meeting Design.
Here’s a simple recipe for designing outstanding meetings:
Plan to plan! Meetings are not great spontaneously—they require forethought about:
Goals/Results to be achieved (perhaps it’s group cohesion, decision-making, and/or strategic planning)
Agreements re: meeting behavior (electronics, interruptions—arriving late, leaving early)
Time of day for best attendance and participation
Attendees (only those critical to achieving the goals—all politics aside)
Agenda and working within the existing time blocks or a process for deciding how to change the agenda items and/or their timing
Processes required to reach the goals (different methods for idea generation, decision-making, task assignments, etc.)
Roles/People in the meeting:
- Host/Agenda keeper
- Person(s) responsible for implementing the process(es)
- Scribe (someone who is not involved in the work of the meeting, unless someone has the skills—and the group will tolerate/support—a dual role for a member of the meeting)
Attention to the timing of the agenda (host and timekeeper)
Person responsible for addressing the question about consciously deciding to adjust the agenda, if necessary (host or timekeeper)
Use of processes for the entire meeting and the various individuals responsible for using them proficiently (enabling people to be present/initial pause for three breaths, check in/setting an intention for the meeting, review of agreements, one voice in the room, ensuring healthy conflict, delegation of tasks, conclusion, check out, etc.)
Accountability re: decisions reached/assignment of tasks to complete before next meeting, next meeting agenda-setting
Check out before close of meeting
Review of goals and achievements of the meeting
Assessment of efficacy of the processes chosen
Asking for feedback (a quick survey with questions specific to meeting content and processes used) with the timely distribution of meeting notes—with an eye toward, an even better meeting next time (“feedforward”)
While you know all of the above, when is the last time you planned for all these variables?
How long would it take you and/or your colleagues to plan for a meeting? Try it and find out!
I hope that you will share you thoughts, opinions and questions with me—I look forward to hearing them.
Terrific Tips for Delicious Meetings!
1. Gain support for any new aspects to meeting planning, implementation and evaluation before implementing it. Inform people of the initiative to maximize results for everyone’s benefit.
2. Ensure the right people are in the room—and no one else… this might involve a serious culture shift—approach this carefully.
3. Plan to achieve the attainable not the impossible.
How often do you have meetings back to back-and need to be in two different places at once with different people?
4. Consider leveraging your knowledge of people’s behavioral styles, working to avoid or manage tense situations with difficult people and ease tension between participants in the meeting. (My favorite is the Platinum Rule.)
5. Read, A Leader in Every Chair by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, for a grounding in the ideas and practices of creating experiences in which all who are present are accountable to the group and what happens in the meeting.
6. Plan to use all of these elements and processes for the next six meetings you lead/coordinate/facilitate. Consider using the template I’ve created to support your planning, implementation, and evaluation process. Keep notes on the entire process: what worked, what obstacles arose, and what needs work.
Dr. Jill Greenbaum, realized early in her career as a trainer and facilitator that communication often breaks down not only because of content (what people say), but also because of process (how they go about saying it). Since then, she’s dedicated her professional life to teaching essential elements of effective communication that transform individuals, their work environments, and their organizations.
Jill Greenbaum, Ed.D.