5 Top Tips for Positive and Productive Meetings
06 May 2017
Next month Michelle is launching our new online course in Positive and Productive Meetings, which combines live online group sessions with e-learning. In this blog post, she shares some of her top tips on how to make meetings really work for everyone involved.
I really enjoy the opportunity to share our learning on how to run Positive and Productive Meetings. For me, this is an area that is often overlooked when organisations are thinking about how to improve, and yet it’s so crucial that they get them right.
Far from being something to just ‘get out of the way’, meetings should be seen as an absolutely vital part of running a successful organisation and, ultimately, in supporting people properly as part of a united team. Unfortunately many of us will have experienced meetings that lack any real, clear purpose, or meetings that have a purpose but for whatever reason simply don’t manage to achieve it.
Positive and productive meetings don’t just happen. It’s important to prepare properly to get the most out of them. In advance of the launch of my new online course, here are 5 top tips that could help you to improve the quality of your meetings straight away.
1. Share responsibility for the success of the meeting
Meetings can often feel like a one-way street, with someone ‘in charge’ bringing together a group of people and dragging them along through an agenda whether they like it or not. To combat this I suggest creating a culture of shared responsibility, where more than one person has a specific meeting role and everyone understands that the meeting’s success both depends on them and is in their best interests. An outcomes-focused agenda, which I will come back to, can also help people to understand what the meeting’s purpose is, and motivate them to play a more active role in achieving it.
2. Pay attention to the environment and hospitality
People need to make time to attend a meeting, so it’s important to make them feel that this time was valued and appreciated. Although attendance at meetings may be mandatory, to get the most out of people’s contributions we want them to feel like their efforts to come along and participate are recognised.
There are different ways of making sure people feel valued and comfortable, and the environment and hospitality is one place to start. If people already have one-page profiles, you might already know whether they like a particular type of coffee, or have a sweet tooth. You might also know whether they work better visually or verbally, so you can think through whether it would be helpful to have flipcharts to draw on, or coloured post-its to help to categorise ideas. If you don’t know this information before the meeting, you can always ask – this will mean that people know that their needs and preferences are being thought about and accommodated, and that their input is valued.
3. Make sure everyone’s voice is heard
People have different styles of communication, and it’s important to be aware of this so that you know everyone’s voice is being heard. Otherwise, some people may be being quiet not because they have nothing to say, but simply because they haven’t had the opportunity to say it. This could mean that important opinions go unsaid. You might recognise that someone has something to say but isn’t saying it through their body language, or you might want to think of a meeting structure that specifically gives each and every attendee a set opportunity to contribute in a way that suits them. I will share more ideas on this on the course.
4. Create outcome-focused agendas
Outcome-focused agendas mean that people don’t just go into a meeting knowing what subjects will be talked about, but instead knowing what changes should be achieved as a result.
This outcomes-focused approach can help ensure that people feel that the meeting is worthwhile, and is focused on achieving something valuable and concrete. Going into meetings with this in mind mean that people are going to feel more interested in contributing, as they are working towards set goals.
Here it is important to understand both how outcomes are defined and how to ensure that you’re working towards them as a group. This is very different to turning up to the meeting with pre-defined solutions that you simply want to get approval for. Instead, outcome-driven approaches give the group a focus for creative thinking and idea generation that should result in valuable, vibrant discussions.
5. Honour meeting agreements
This final point isn’t about what you do in the meeting itself, but it is perhaps the single most important point in creating a long-term culture of purposeful meetings. After all, if teams realise that items are agreed as part of a meeting and then they aren’t followed up, they will simply lose interest in contributing ideas or making agreements in future meetings. This quickly becomes a negative cycle as people start to realise that the meetings are not resulting in any actual changes.
There are different ways of following up on actions, from sharing agreed task lists with the whole group, to personal follow ups on a one-on-one basis. Only by doing this can all the attendees have real confidence that their time at the meeting is being put to the best use, and that things will change in the future as a result of this time they are spending together.
The Positive and Productive Meetings method, developed by Helen Sanderson Associates, is a person-centred way of structuring meetings to get the most from them. To learn more about running Positive and Productive Meetings, join Michelle’s new online course for only £95.
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