Want to Lead Better Meetings? Here Are Our Meeting Game Changers.

By June 14, 2022Leadership
meeting game changers

This Meeting Could Have Been an Email 

One of my favorite gifts from the last couple of years is a beautiful, scented candle in a gorgeous glass jar. It says: “Smells like: This meeting could have been an email.” Whoever invented that is hilarious and knows the pain of what a lot of us feel in so many of our meetings.

Reimagine How Meetings Happen

Most meetings have good intentions and in theory, meetings shouldn’t be painful or hard to lead. You get people together and get some things done. Like most things, it’s not as easy as we think it should be. There’s an art and a science to meetings, and we often work with leaders to tune up or re-imagine how meetings happen.

Most leaders spend about half their time in meetings (hybrid and remote work have tended to increase meeting time). Therefore, putting productive meeting strategies and structures in place is time well spent (unlike time spent in some of the meetings you probably attend).

Meeting Game Changers

Get us started on meetings and we’ll have to have a meeting to talk about it! So, instead, we’re making you a cheat sheet. Here are 5 meeting game changers when it comes to re-thinking your meetings.

  1. Use Question-based Agendas

    Have you ever gotten to a meeting thinking you were talking about one thing and then realizing it was going in a totally different direction? Or because everyone had a different perspective on the topic, it took 10 minutes just to level set? Here’s a different approach. Build your meeting agendas with questions. Questions do two things: First, they offer more precision than a topic. Second, they open up our perspective instead of narrowing it.

    A couple of examples:

    1. Agenda topic: Coverage for Saturday schedule

      This could go all kinds of ways. Are we talking about ideas for who should cover Saturdays? Are we talking about how the schedule should work on Saturdays? Are we talking about re-thinking how Saturdays work?

      Question-based agenda topic: How could we rotate coverage on Saturdays?

      That feels much clearer. Now I know what to come to the table with in terms of ideas. I have more precision around what exactly we’re talking about.

    2. Agenda topic: Submitting for reviews

      Again, not sure if we’re talking about how to submit a form for review, if there are new things to look out for, or if the timing of reviews is changing…

      Question-based agenda topic: How could we create a proofreading check-point before submitting forms for review?

      That’s more precise and we have a better sense of what to expect.

      Give it a try, see what happens if you set up question-based agendas and send agendas out ahead of time. This gives people a chance to think about those questions outside of the confines of the meeting because not all of us do our best thinking during the exact time a meeting is scheduled.

  2. Get People Talking in Small Groups

    It’s a rough meeting when you’re sitting there listening to one person talk at a time. If you want to get people engaged and participating, break them into small groups at least once per meeting (2-6 people per group). Then, get them thinking about a question.

    When people have an opportunity to contribute, not only is the meeting more productive, but people feel it has more value. Bonus points if you get people using note cards or a virtual whiteboard to capture ideas and thinking.

  3. Spend 5-10 Minutes Connecting as Humans

    If you’re a part of a regularly scheduled meeting, a little connection goes a long way. Even if you’re only meeting one time, getting people to connect is a great way to build a little trust quickly. One of our favorite clients starts every one of her meetings with “one good thing”. She asks everyone to share one good thing that’s happened in the last 24 hours. It’s amazing what we learn about each other and the kind of energy that’s created just by quickly sharing something positive together.

    We also like:

    1. “Progress roll call”: We ask each other in a regularly scheduled meeting, “What progress have we made since the last time we met?”

    2. “One minute of focus”: We ask everyone to sit up straight, close their eyes and take some deep breaths together. It may be the only 60 seconds people have in their day to just be quiet and breathe. It also lets people come into your meeting with full presence.

    3. “Reading or watching”: Where you share one thing you’re reading or watching that you’d recommend. There are a million ice breaker, connection-focused questions out there, but this one always gets people swapping their latest recommendations and gives each other insight into the kinds of interests everyone has.  

  4. No More “Parking Lots”

    Remember the “parking lot”? This is where someone has an idea or topic they bring up in a meeting that veers off-track from the meeting’s focus. So, then the meeting leader puts up a “parking lot” and writes down the idea, and that’s where it dies because nothing ever comes out of the parking lot. No one wants people derailing their meeting with things that are off-topic. 

    Here’s an alternative:

    When someone brings up something distracting, you say: “That’s an important piece of work. Let’s take a minute and see who can work with you on that. Does anyone want to work with Jen on the Saturday schedule? Great, thank you, Marcy. At our next meeting, we’d love to hear an update on this.” And you move on.

    The idea here is that instead of dismissing the idea or question, you’re showing you value the idea. Getting people to quickly team up and schedule another time to work on it while making it clear that this meeting is not the right time or place for it.

  5. Post Updates Ahead of Time

    This isn’t new in meeting game changers, but worth reiterating as it continues to be super helpful.

    Do you know those meetings where you sit around for an hour or more listening to one person download “updates”? Most update meetings could have been an email. Better yet, you can make a shared virtual space where updates can be posted ahead of the meeting. Teams, Trello, Monday, Asana, or even a Google doc could all work as a place to post updates.

    Bonus Tip: Schedule 15-20 minutes ahead of your scheduled meeting time. This gives time to those folks who didn’t have a chance to read through updates to get their reading in before the meeting officially starts.

    Then… use time in the meeting to invite questions about the updates. You’ll save a whole lot of time, and get to the heart of what people really want to know.

Keep It Short

On a final note, remember that meetings do not have to be 60 minutes long. It’s so refreshing when I see a 20 or 30-minute meeting on my schedule. It’s incredible how much you can get done in 20 minutes if you know that’s all the time you have going into it.

It also never hurts to do the occasional “meetings audit” where you ask “Does this meeting add value and do we need to ever meet again?”

If you’re looking for more meeting game changers, or want to talk about re-inventing your meetings, send us an email or book a time to chat further. We love solving meeting puzzles!

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Jen Margolis

About Jen Margolis

My passion is helping people find and use their strengths to move toward their biggest vision. My career began as a community organizer with refugees and grew to designing and facilitating programs for international professionals including grassroots women leaders in Egypt. These experiences led me to management consulting focusing on strategic planning, leadership development, community and education based program development and executive coaching.

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