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Not the Same Old Boring Meeting

meetings Jul 07, 2021

I clicked on the link and headed into the virtual meeting. I had no idea what to expect. There was a “title” on the invitation to the meeting, but it was pretty nondescript so I was unprepared for the meeting. I was new to the team and everyone else seemed to fall into a groove that already existed meanwhile I went into observer mode trying to figure out the groove. 

It’s a beautiful gift to be a newbie in a group because you see things that everyone else has gotten used to. Though I don’t enjoy situations where I don’t know what is expected, I can learn from them. Join me for a few observations about those “same old, same old” meetings you likely go to every week.

Target your Purpose

I had no clue what kind of meeting I was headed into -- no agenda, a nondescript title, no preparation instructions and I was new. Time is a limited resource for all of us yet it can be managed well by being purposeful. What does your team (or your audience) need from you to make the time they spend worth it? What do you need to accomplish in the meeting to further the mission of the team? 

Design around Your Purpose

Based on your purpose, you can change up how you design the meeting to achieve that purpose:

  • If the purpose is a status update, give people a framework to follow and set a timer or it can get a little drawn out and boring.
  • If the purpose is discussion, give people the context and ask purposeful questions that guide toward the goal of the discussion (decision, input, feedback, etc).
  • If the purpose is brainstorming, give it structure so it doesn’t get off track -- engage tools like flip charts, sorting ideas on Post-It notes, vote on ideas to narrow them down, break into groups so you don’t miss out on additional ideas, etc.
  • If the purpose is information or updates, support the information with reference material and offer opportunity for Q&A in the meeting or in follow up
  • If the purpose is to get answers to questions you have, write them out ahead of time so you ask the right questions. If the questions are too broad it might derail the conversation. If too narrow, you might not get the information you need.

Granted, some meetings will have multiple purposes within the agenda, that’s OK. Consider treating each meeting as an unique opportunity to engage and interact with each other around the specific purpose(s). All meetings don’t have to be the same if they are facilitated well.

Great meetings are created in the preparation and facilitation that is aimed at a clear purpose

For Your Next Meeting

Long winded, drawn out meetings, or conversations with too many rabbit trails are the ones we all want to avoid. Great meetings are created in the preparation and facilitation that is aimed at a clear purpose. Learn like a newbie by engaging in a few self-observation next steps:

  1. Choose one of your “same-old, same-old” meetings you facilitate regularly.
  2. At your next meeting, observe yourself and the group. Notice where people are engaged and where they are bored.
  3. Speculate what might be contributing to that. Was there adequate preparation? What facilitation strategies worked or didn’t? Why? Was the purpose clear and did the meeting achieve its purpose? 
  4. Review the suggestions above. What will you do differently for the next meeting?

If you regularly engage in self-observation, you will learn like that newbie in their first team meetings. Your learning can help you keep the meetings engaging and purposeful. Ask for feedback to enhance your observations and invite suggestions that keep the meeting from being the same old boring, and likely unproductive, meeting. 

Share your thoughts, experiences and ideas regarding effective, engaging meetings in the comments.

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