What’s worse than attending a boring meeting? Leading one.
Whether you’re in charge of an occasional team huddle, convening your salespeople every week, or an annual state-of-the-agency get together, you want it to be informative and motivating, both for your attendees and for you. If it’s been a while since you’ve given your meetings any real thought, here are some considerations that might help you re-energize your team.
Determine the Right Cadence and People
The first questions to ask before calling a meeting are these: Do we really need to meet? If so, who actually needs to attend? Many people dread meetings for a wide variety of reasons—their workload is already overwhelming, gatherings make them uncomfortable, they’re not directly involved in whatever the meeting is about, the meeting information could’ve been covered in an email, and so on.
Don’t let the past hold you hostage. The fact that your agency has held all-staff meetings every month for years is not a good enough reason to continue them. Would it make more sense to switch to quarterly? Could it be that only senior staff need to attend? Or, if monthly and all-staff does generally work, could you still cancel them from time to time if there’s not much to talk about? As you put together your agenda, think through those questions and make intentional choices that respect everyone’s time and wishes.
Ask for Input
This one’s pretty simple. If you want to engage people, include topics that interest them. If you want to know what those topics are, ask! Periodically survey your team about things like what they want to learn, what they don’t understand, whether they’re clear on your and their goals, and if they have ideas for how to improve your agency. This not only helps them feel more invested, it can also make it easier for you to choose topics and provide direction for future meetings.
Distribute a Clear, Timed Agenda
Let everyone know ahead of time how long your meeting will last—and stick to that timing. Distribute your agenda electronically ahead of time and provide a visual version while the meeting is occurring (e.g., printed out, on an oversized piece of paper or projected on a screen).
If you want to be a real work hero, build in more time for at least one agenda item than you’ll actually need. Then end early. Why? Because no one ever said: “I’m so bummed this meeting ended early!”
Use Remote Technology Thoughtfully
Letting participants attend your meetings through conference calls or online video services can be a great way to include those who have to be out of the office or work at a different site. It can help them feel included and that their participation is valued.
However, remote-attendance technology can sometimes be unreliable or distracting. If all you’re doing is providing informational updates, could you send those out in writing instead and let everyone off the hook?
Play to Your Crowd
You know your team. Think back to your last two or three team meetings, identify what might have been irritating or annoying to participants, and try to come up with creative and effective ways to eliminate those issues before they happen again.
Does Jim pontificate too much? Is Sheri likely to derail things by bringing up unrelated topics? Set the ground rules at the start and add a fun enforcement method—like agreeing that no one can speak unless they’re holding a magic wand that you provide. Is Doug argumentative about everything? Have a chat with him a few days before the meeting, give him specific examples of his problematic behavior and get his agreement to curtail it.
Spring for the Good Donuts
If a meeting is going to last more than an hour, think about providing some kind of edible distraction that you know your crew will enjoy. Pay a few bucks more for high-quality coffee and donuts instead of the juice pouches and fruit rollups left over from your kid’s weekend soccer match. And vary the menu – no one wants to see the same bowl of stale hard candy and expired bags of peanuts every time they walk into a conference room.
In short, when you’re trying to lead an effective team meeting, put yourself in the shoes of your attendees. Centering your get-together on their needs is a great way to garner more participation and achieve higher levels of buy-in and engagement from your team.
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