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  • Writer's pictureMarion Burchell

How to get the most out of meetings

Meetings. An eight-letter word that can consume 100% of a day, week, a diary.

The long ramblings of people postulating, peacocking, or parading the latest technique to get noticed in meetings. They can be time consuming torture.

There are some simple ways to transform a “what am I doing here?” meeting to a “power hour of value”.

1. Start with why

Do you need to meet? Could it be resolved via an email, phone call or brief? Time is after all the one thing that you can’t get back so it’s important to be strategic about how you use yours and other peoples.

2. Be clear about the objectives

Any meeting requires people to vest their time, meaning based on hourly rate there could be significant money sunk in people just attending a meeting. Therefore, it’s important people are clear about why they have allocated their time to this meeting.

3. Pre-meeting preparation

Give people some upfront information for instance a brief, links to relevant information, any paperwork, an agenda with outcomes being sought. The information can be emailed or loaded onto a site e.g., MS Teams. This allows people to come prepared translating into a more valuable meeting.

4. Get into the driver’s seat

All meetings that generate positive outcomes have someone driving them. This means:

- clarifying what people say

- putting things into actions

- asking how that would work and who needs to be involved

- being clear about when that action can happen

- align tasks with people that have the resources, skills, knowledge to deliver.

Just because you are not the meeting organiser or chair does not preclude you from taking the driver’s seat. Remember, your time is just as valuable!

5. Create space for contribution

Everyone has some value to give during a meeting, sometimes they just don’t know it. People can be quiet because they need time to think and process, need to be invited to contribute, or are too polite to interrupt. Actively look for signs that people want to contribute e.g., raising a hand or finger, opening their mouth to speak, fidgeting, or if online, writing in the chat. By allowing everyone to have a say generates a greater wealth of knowledge, ideas and options, but also creates a micro culture of respect and value of all.

6. Document

Ensure that the key points, actions, timing, and people committed to deliver have been documented and agreed at the meeting, so everyone is clear about what needs to happen to deliver outcomes. These actions should be transparent and be able to be seen by all during the meeting e.g., share computer screen, or be interactive and use a tool like a Miro or Trello board (for hybrid or on-line meetings).

7. Follow up

Ensure people are held to account by having a transparent follow up system that has been agreed. This could be another meeting in the not-too-distant future and a digital site that allows people to document status in real time e.g., Trello board or MS Teams site.

8. Celebrate

Ensure that completed tasks are acknowledged with positive affirmation. Completed initiatives and projects should be celebrated, and superiors told of the team's success. This creates greater momentum, buy in, and good will for any future meetings.

Note: If you are using a technology platform it is always best to keep it simple. That means keeping everything in one place - any uploaded files, project management and meetings, to minimise any confusion, and so there is one source of truth.

About Marion

Marion is a highly experienced and accomplished strategy, innovation and leadership professional with a focus on the enterprise and government sectors. She is a trusted advisor to CEOs and senior executives, providing practical and pragmatic solutions to the challenges they face. Marion is the Managing Director at Azolla Holdings Pty Ltd, Board member, thought leader and member of an international entrepreneur association.

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