Meetings. We’ve all sat in a lot of them-Home council meetings, steering council meetings, work meetings, planning meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Yes, meetings of all kinds are a necessary part of Family life. We need them, we have to have them and they provide us with an invaluable platform for discussion, organization, decision-making, and a whole lot more. Unfortunately, not all our meetings are well-managed or as effective as they could be, and sometimes they’re also kind of boring.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Meetings can be interesting and fun, and they most certainly should always be effective and worth your time to actively participate in.
Meetings Make a Difference
Not only does a poorly planned and executed meeting inhibit productivity, and frustrate everyone involved, but a boring meeting is a sign of uninspired, uninspiring leadership, and a sign that companies are not achieving their potential. Most people hate meetings, but meetings are also necessary. And they can be fun instead of boring.
First let’s look at two of the most common problems in meetings:
¥ Boredom – People endure tedious presentations wondering why they have to sit through them when they can think of more important things they could be doing.
¥ Ineffectiveness – Meetings that don’t accomplish anything.
It is possible to address both of these problems-boredom and ineffectiveness-with the following two solutions: put your meetings in context, and stay focused on that context, and make them dramatic.
By dramatic I mean, engaging. Think of your favorite movies. The average meeting lasts about as long as the average movie and there’s no reason why it can’t have as much drama.
Begin the meeting by telling the attendees what it is about. What’s the story? What are the stakes? Stakes are what people win or lose, so they are important. Stakes give people a reason to care about the subject and, therefore, a reason to care about the meeting.
As for context: Most meetings are pointless because they have no context, no compelling reason to take place. Make your meetings more effective by always having an established, significant reason for each meeting to exist.
Meetings also take time, and as the old adage goes: Time equals money. So when put into this context, the question that begs to be asked is, “Are we getting our money’s worth?”
The expense of meetings in the way of time-said to be one of life’s most valuable commodities-is an impetus to make them more efficient and productive.
Now let’s look a little closer at some of the “fine print” pointers that make meetings more effective:
Preparing for a Meeting:
¥ Set goals and know what you want to achieve in the meeting.
¥ Make sure those you want to attend are present.
¥ Assemble and review the agenda, reports, and resources you need for the meeting.
¥ Check all your logistics: room size, seating, refreshments, electronic gear, and so on.
¥ Send the meeting announcement and the planned agenda to all of the participants up to 48 hours in advance.
¥ Discuss the meeting with “key players.” For example, check with anyone who is supposed to present information. Make sure he or she is ready.
¥ If key participants can’t come, consider postponing the meeting.
¥ Try to predict any potential difficulties by thinking through “what if” scenarios.
Off Topic?: A common problem that erodes meeting efficiency is a discussion that drifts off topic. We call this “Topic migration”-a conversation that shifts to a topic that is not on the agenda. Avoid this by addressing the diversion and redirecting the conversation. If necessary, put the topic on a list to be addressed later.
Monopolization: Another common problem is “Topic monopolization.” This is where a few members monopolize a discussion. When this happens the person chairing the meeting could decide at this point to involve the non-participating members in the discussion by directing questions towards them, suggest the topic be brought up again at a later time, or suggest that the involved parties discuss the issue as a subgroup.
Time Police: Although time management is crucial during the meeting, also be alert to some other time-based considerations:
¥ Find out when members prefer to schedule meetings.
¥ Right after lunch is not usually an ideal time to have meetings, as energy levels can tend to drop.
¥ Try to limit your meetings to a specified time. Keep longer meetings to two hours or less. Break every hour for 10 minutes.
¥ Never meet for more than an hour and a half without a break.
¥ Call a break whenever the group’s energy level dips.
Presentation: The prospect of presenting your proposal or opinion to a group can rattle even the most experienced speaker. Take steps to ensure your meeting presentation is effective. When preparing your presentation, identify a clear idea of what it is you want to say and make sure you have enough knowledge of the subject to talk about it.
This above point on presentation is really important. Learning how you can better present your points will work wonders for you (and all your listeners.) Poor presenters run the risk of people “enduring” their dialog. When this occurs they’re likely to lose people’s interest, minds will wander, and this negatively affects the meeting.
Be careful, too, about repetition. This applies to both repeating what other people say (echoing their points, but in your own words) or repeating a point you are making. If you agree with someone else, simply say, “I agree with So-and-so.” And when you are bringing up a point, stop explaining after the point is made the first time.
Handling Conflict: Conflicts are certain to arise. Resolving them is an important responsibility of team leaders and meeting facilitators. Do not try to deny or avoid differences. Be supportive and understanding. Help participants develop several solutions. If things get heated, defuse anger by halting the argument, proposing a break and reminding participants to show respect. An uncooperative participant can derail even the best-planned meeting. Counterproductive behavior takes many forms. Personality flaws such as negativity, arrogance, pettiness, impatience, envy, or narcissism play a role. When dealing with “meeting monsters,” focus on the behavior rather than the person. Meet in private with offenders and let them air their grievances. Remind offenders of the team’s goals and vision to prod them back on track.
Another very important aspect of your participation in meetings is your non-verbal communication-your body language or posture. Verbal presentation is extremely important in meetings-being clear, concise, and articulate-but just as important, or perhaps even more so, is your meeting “posture,” as the following article excerpt indicates. This is something not many people are usually very conscious of-how their posture or unspoken attitude is affecting the meeting.
Next time you’re in a meeting, take note of how your attitude and body language might be affecting the meeting, whether positively or negatively.
Non-verbal meeting interaction: During a meeting people are communicating continuously, and not only the people who are speaking. Everybody who is present expresses non-verbally how he or she feels during the meeting. They continuously show if they think the subjects for discussion are interesting and if they agree with the speakers.
It often seems that the people who talk the most have the most influence on the course of the conversation and on the eventual decision-making. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes people who do not have much to say can change or disrupt the course of the conversation just by their presence.
The people who are not that interested sit back in their chairs, and often draw the nicest doodles, while giving others the idea that they are taking notes. The people who are really not interested at all stare idly into space or just keep looking around them.
People who are participating in the meeting and are of the opinion that the subject is important follow the speakers in a non-verbal manner. When they agree with the speaker, they nod a lot. They take on an open, attentive attitude.
You can tell a lot about people’s opinions or the degree of their involvement in a meeting by paying attention to their attitude.
In the End: An effective closing leaves people with a clear understanding of what occurred during the meeting and what is expected of them. The five steps of implementing a positive closing are:
1. Review decisions, outcomes, and agenda items covered in the meeting.
2. Clarify responsibilities and due dates.
3. Schedule the next meeting.
4. Evaluate the success of the meeting.
5. Thank all the participants for their contributions.
Evaluation: Conducting regular evaluations enables you to gather feedback and continuously improve meeting procedures. Ask members for feedback at the end of a meeting you’ve led or via questionnaire. Ask participants if they felt the meeting was punctual, used time wisely, made good use of technology, and resulted in decisions. Ask for recommendations for improvements.
(Editor: For more counsel and practical tips on leading/participating in effective meetings see “Getting Down to Business” Letter Links #1 [ML #3687, GN 1248].)
Additional Meeting Presentation Tips
From “Etiquette for Disciples, Part 3”
*Be careful about your conduct so that you don’t come across as taking over the meeting or being the know-it-all. Respect the person who is in the chair position.
*Go slow, and your words will often be clearer and more to the point, and you will make your point more quickly and easily. (Editor: Just don’t speak too slowly, as you will either lose your listeners or become a bore.)
*If the point that you’re trying to get across isn’t yet clear in your own mind, speaking it aloud doesn’t usually make it clearer. In your meeting, if everyone throws out their points that haven’t been thought through, that they haven’t asked the Lord to clarify for them in their mind, then you’re going to have a lot of wasted time, especially in big Homes. It’s not that your point needs to be completely clear before you say it, but it does need to somewhat make sense. So stop and pray before you say. Call on the keys of clarity and focus to help you.-Dad
*If your mind is full of many thoughts, all of which are jostling about, eager to rush out of your mouth, ask the Lord which needs to go first and which can wait till later; and if you are afraid you will forget them, write them down. Sometimes jotting yourself a note or two can help you to clarify your thoughts before speaking them in a meeting setting.-Dad
*If you have a problem with fillers-such as “um,” “like,” “you know,” “sort of,” etc.-then ask a friend to keep count of the number of times in a speech or meeting that you use them, and give you the tally afterwards, or even give you some sort of little signal during the meeting that you’re overdoing it. You can do the same for words that you overuse. Work on your speech to use these words and phrases less. If it’s fillers you’re using, then simply pause for a moment when you don’t know what to say or are gathering your thoughts. If it’s certain words you’re overusing, then look up substitutes in a thesaurus or pray about different ways to express yourself, new and original ways to get your point across, not the same old words that get on people’s nerves to the point that it’s distracting.-Dad