How to Run Effective Meetings
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Have you run a meeting where you were going to agree the next 5 steps in the project with your engineers?
10-15 minutes into the meeting it quickly veered off track, the engineers dived into specific technical details and you finished without agreeing the 5 steps?
If you have had enough of wasted meetings, here’s a formula for productive meetings:
1. Be very clear and specific about the purpose of the meeting
What do you want to have agreed / done by the end of the meeting?
E.g. “Agree with the team the next 5 steps in the X project design and who will do what and by when in each of these 5 steps.” is clear and specific.
“Agree the way forward” is not clear and specific. “The way forward” for what exactly? What does “way forward” mean? How will you know you achieved “way forward”? How will you measure “way forward”?
2. Set the Rules of the Game.
When you play Monopoly there are some basic rules of the game, without them, how could you play it? The same applies in a meeting.
Some rules could be:
a) Do not interrupt each other, the chairperson of the meeting is the only one allowed to interrupt and only can interrupt in 2 situations: to stop someone who is interrupting others and to stop someone who is moving the meeting away from its intended purpose.
b) Each person has max 3 min to make a point at a time. Beyond 3 min the rest of the meeting attendees have to verbally/physically (raise hand) agree if they want the person to carry on for another 3 minutes. The chairperson is allowed to interrupt them after 3 minutes and ask contributions from people who have been silent throughout the meeting. Chairperson is responsible to ask an attendee to do the timekeeping.
c) If you want to make a contribution (especially whilst a colleague is speaking) raise your index finger, make eye contact with the chairperson and wait for the chairperson to give you your turn to speak. Don’t interrupt others or raise your palm to stop them speaking.
d) If it is unclear how your contribution is related to the purpose of the meeting, the chairperson can and will ask you: “How does this help us get to the purpose of the meeting?” and your answer has to show this.
e) Chairperson will email the purpose of the meeting at least 24 hours before the meeting and explain to attendees what contributions will be expected of them in the meeting, so they have time to prepare any information needed and so they do not feel put on the spot. The purpose of the meeting should be clearly written on a whiteboard or slide which stays on throughout the meeting so everyone can be easily and quickly reminded of the purpose of the meeting.
3. Be Consistent.
If you keep changing the rules or don’t apply them consistently, the formula will lose its power. The purpose of the meeting is there to help you keep on track.