Thoughts on Meetings

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.” — Dave Barry

General Keys

Ensure Equal Contribution

Provide an opportunity for everyone in the meeting to contribute to the meeting. This means that when there is an agenda item that calls to have the group generate ideas make sure everyone’s ideas are heard. When you discuss an issue, everyone gets a say. That way, when you make decisions, you’ll tap into the best thinking of everyone in the meeting. This is not just about being “fair,” but rather leveraging the talents and perspectives you have brought together.

Warm-ups

Making Connections

A warm-up for ideation sessions:

Purpose:
? Identify how things relate to one another
? Flex the creative muscles

Time estimate: 3-5 minutes
Suggested group size: 2-15 people

Step #1 The leader thinks of two everyday objects or situations.
Step #2 The leader fills in the blank using the two chosen objects or
situations: “What do [the object or situation] and [the other object or
situation] have in common?”
Step #3 In round-robin fashion, group members respond with an
answer. Allow any person to “pass” if desired.
Step #4 Continue until the group has had enough.
Optional: Have the group members pick the objects or situations.
Examples of objects or situations: What do an eraser and a pillow have in
common? A lightbulb and a pole? Sales and information services? A computer
and a meeting room? A press release and a technological breakthrough? A rug
and a dress? A hippopotamus and pants?

Hints:
? To make this game a little more difficult, you can use three objects.
Any more than three, however, will make it extremely difficult.
? If you play several rounds, alternate who comes up with the object.
? Use everyday items or things. Stay away from comparing people and
particular items (e.g., “What does Sarah’s hairbrush have in common
with software?”).

From Creative Collaboration

General Keys

Recognize introverts and extroverts.

In meetings include processes that focus on both introverted approaches (“alone time” for generating ideas) and extroverted approaches (“group time” for generating ideas). Some people think more effectively by themselves with no distractions, and some like the stimulation of other people. Most of us need both.

Articles

5 Ways to Make Your Meetings Effective

Excerpts from lucafiligheddu.com, Jun 2009

“In my opinion, one of the worse part after a meeting is the phase when you need to put all pieces together and come up with an effective and useful meeting report and action items for the post-meeting activity.”

“I found out that making a meeting effective is crucial for the activity after the meeting (and for your health). Here are five tips I learnt in the past ten years.” 1) Go straight to the point Sometimes I noticed, especially here in Italy, that lots of meetings are filled with discussions and chats completely out of the main scope… 2) Laptop, your best friend If you can, take notes directly on your laptop.  (We at Productive Meeting do not recommend this) 3) No, I’m not texting! Use a program like Evernote (available for iPhone, too), you’ll easily figure it out. Evernote lets you take text notes and tag them, attach documents to them, attach photos (taken in real-time) and so on. 4) Real time actions have most of the standard product/service presentations on my Blackberry so it’s very easy for me to send them immediately. 5) Stand-up meeting? Best meetings are the shortest.

See entire article here

General Keys

The Importance of Purpose

The single most important thing to prepare for a meeting to be absolutely clear about the purpose of the meeting. There are two level of purpose to consider:  The first is what you intend to accomplish in the meeting, and the other, higher level, is the reason to behind what you wish to accomplish. If you are unclear about the purpose our advice is to not have a meeting, it is unlikely to be productive and therefore successful.

Ask the following questions (with clear and specific answers) to determine the purpose of your meeting:

First level purpose: What do we wish to accomplish in this meeting? What do we want to come out of the meetings with? What is the output of the meeting?

Higher level purpose: Why have the meeting? Why accomplish what you wish to accomplish in the meeting? You are having the meeting so that you _________?

Do an input/output analysis of the meeting (Determine the inputs and outputs of the meeting). The output will indicate the purpose.

Articles

Slide Show on Effective Meetings

People don’t take meetings seriously Solution: Adopt a mindset among all participants that meetings are real work. You have to make your meetings “uptime” rather than “downtime.”

Example: Put a poster on the wall of every conference room with a series of simple questions about the meetings to act as a visual reminder: Do you know the purpose of this meeting? Do you have an agenda? Do you know your role? Do you follow the rules for good minutes?  Check out the slide show.

Group Decision Making

Thumbs: Decision Making

This group decision making tool enable your group to get a quick sense of everyone’s perspective spending less time in conversation.

Purpose: To determine the level of support for a decision in order to achieve consensus. To find out what is missing or standing in the way of consensus.

1.            Clearly state the proposed solution or decision and resolve any ambiguities.

2.             Ask participants to vote with their thumbs:

- Thumbs up – can live with decision and will support it

- Thumbs down – can’t live with the decision

- Thumbs sideways – not sure, need more information

3.            Consensus is reached if all participants vote thumbs up.

4.            A group needs to seek enthusiastic support for a decision when:

- the stakes are very high

- the decision is irreversible

- the issue is very complicated

- there are many stakeholders

- members will need to tap into their passion and creativity to implement the decision

5.            If consensus is reached, and you wish to determine the level of enthusiastic support, ask participants to vote again, this time using their fingers (you may skip steps 2-4 and go directly to this step):

- 1 finger   = I fully endorse the decision (or thumbs up)

- 2 fingers = I endorse the decision with one minor point of contention (or thumbs at 10:30 o’clock)

- 3 fingers = I agree with the decision with reservations (or thumbs at 9 o’clock)

- 4 fingers = I disagree with the decision, but I will support it (or thumbs at 8:30 o’clock)

- 5 fingers = I disagree with the decision, I won’t help implement it, but I also won’t block it (or thumbs at 6 o’clock)

6.            Tally the votes. If there are significant votes of 3 or more fingers, you don’t have enthusiastic support. Turn it back to the group to seek feedback and decide how to move forward.  If there are any votes that are less than 1 finger then have the group discuss the reservation and come to a resolution.

Optionally index cards and pens can be used to vote anonymously

From Leading Effective Meetings Training Workbook

Articles

What makes an Effective Meeting?

Effective meetings really boil down to three things:

  1. They achieve the meeting’s objective.
  2. They take up a minimum amount of time.
  3. They leave participants feeling that a sensible process has been followed.

Read more here

Articles

Evidence for the Effectiveness of Face-to-face meetings vs. Virtual

Companies are reducing the amount of face-to-face meetings in order to reduce their costs.  But the question is are they really saving money?  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests otherwise.

When to have face-to-face meeting:  When group processes and outcomes that require coordination, consensus, timing and persuasion of others were better accomplished up close and personal. Additionally, it is more effective to have face-to-face meetings when negotiating important contracts, interviewing senior staff for key positions and understanding and listening to important customers.  Another finding show that anything with new customers, closing sales, and improving the top line is still done face-to-face.

Read about it here

Quotations

Heard in a Meeting about Meetings in Sydney, Australia

“Program manager: I think we should adopt the behaviours from the charter for meetings of the [Partnerships] section. [Steven], why don’t you read them out?
Steven: Respect other’s opinions and feelings, stay focused, turn off mobile phones, question self before others, participate enthusiastically and share experience and knowledge, have some fun….
Employee: Anyone telling me to have some fun at meetings better think again.”

Sure there is resistance to having fun.  Not really.  But the employee’s statement is more about them being respected (see rule #1 above).  I have found when participants object to the “fun” behavior rule (and I have) they are merely testing the viability of the rules along with making the statement: “Don’t tell me what to feel.”  There is nothing wrong with including have fun, but be aware of sensitive folks who are concerned that they are being told what to feel.  It would be best to acknowledge the person’s objection and ask for ways to phrase it so that everyone may agree.