Over my career, I’ve worked in multiple sectors. This has meant *lots* of meetings.
The meeting where Bob in finance bores everyone with his stats for 20 minutes that noone listened to after the first 3. The one where Rachel from marketing talked and talked about her new plan of action about a project 3 months away that noone could connect to. The one where most people in the room wondered the same thing… why was this even in my diary?
Initially working in corporate finance and banking in London, where my world revolved around speedy decisions, making money, to the charity (3rd) sector where I ran a music charity in Kent facilitating courses and workshops, events and training for over 5 years, I’ve been in lots of meetings. Both of these were so different in how meetings happened, types of attendees and the structure of the meeting.
I learnt a lot about how meetings can get dragged out into hours with little focus sometimes, and in contrast how meetings can be driven by a sole big voice or powerful position, leading to wasted time for many attendees who really didn’t need to be there.
Now working in a digital environment I’ve seen so many alternative ways of facilitating meetings from our time with councils and the NHS to charities, corporate global clients and massive household brands.
I’m definitely not one to claim I run the best meetings – I probably run the worst meetings in our team! – but over time I’ve noticed traits and ideas that I think in context make some great meetings, even greater.
Definitely in no particular order…
In 2010-11 I was involved in an amazing team in Margate helping to run the launch of the new Turner Contemporary gallery. One of the team there, Paul, introduced me to the standup meeting, in the literal sense. Its a simple idea thats been around for years, but as a fledgeling manager I was intrigued and loved it. Literally standing up makes you get to your point quicker, makes people only really say what they need to, cuts meeting times massively and releases efficiency!
Not all meetings work like this of course, and still plan your meeting, but stand ups are awesome…
One of the lessons we’ve certainly learnt in recent years is to make sure that only the right and necessary people are at your meeting. Not everyone needs to be there. We might *think* they all need to come, we might even *think* they’ll all want to come. But lets be honest – they probably don’t. Meetings need to be productive. So invite the productive people for the purpose of the meeting.
This is super hard in our industry. We’re always on email, phone, websites, apps for the work we do, so its a natural connection that this comes into all parts of our day, especially meetings. However I’ve recently been reading Richard Branson’s book ‘Live, Laugh, Learn, Lead’. He talks about tech in meetings. He turns his phone off. Closes his email. If he’s in a meeting he gives his attention to the meeting, the people he’s meeting with. Takes a notepad. job done. Attention is everything.
There must be a point to the meeting. If there’s not – cancel it!
If there is – make that super clear – whether you announce it or not doesn’t matter – its up to you, but know what the objective is, what you want to achieve, or if you’re a participant, know *why* you’re going and how you can contribute. This meeting is to take potentially up to an hour of your day – make that hour count!
What can you contribute to, challenge, add value to or learn?
As a leader or participant find out or define the objective. Then focus that in the meeting.
In a digital age its so easy to take notes on a system like Evernote or Apple notes etc – but things can become so easily lost among the others. Written notes are always custom – they include your scribbles, sentences, drawings, names, icons, personal elements that make digesting the notes later much more tangible and accessible.
I’ve been in so many meetings where people around me in my team haven’t taken any notes at all. Then ask to see my notes later on – I’m not that horrible so they get them, but its a trigger to prompt a reminder to take their own notes… Its so helpful. What *you* take away from that meeting sometimes is only taken away by you, so you might be the key person to recall that moment. Relying on other people’s notes or not taking notes at all isn’t great practice. Go buy a notebook!