10 Steps to Awesome Meetings

True or False: Meetings are often time-wasting interruptions in a work day.

My guess is most people answered true.

That’s a travesty because there is another way!

At Sea Change we help clients communicate more creatively and effectively across multi-disciplinary advocacy, fundraising, marketing and communications teams. This involves meeting.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been told I run a good meeting that helps unleash creativity while also getting things done.

What’s the secret sauce? Here are 10 tips I’ve learned:

(1) Always have an objective. What are you meeting for? Your meeting should seek to accomplish something. For example: To develop a 2013 campaign roadmap; or to create the narrative arc for the spring integrated marketing campaign; or to develop a reader’s survey for a flagship donor cultivation vehicle. Meetings should not be informational (People can read memos). Be clear on your objective and highlight it in the agenda.

(2) Make sure there is an agenda. Each section should have a clear leader and should be timed. Send it to the full team at least 24 hours before the meeting.

(3) Assign pre-work. Make sure people know how to come prepared to the meeting. Are they leading a section of the agenda? Are they presenting data? Do they need to come with creative ideas? Let them know well in advance.

(4) Start on time. If you start late or arrive late, you waste people’s time. Period. Set the expectation that you will start on time and create a social norm against late-comers by doing it.

(5) Start with expansive/creative items first. Once people dig into logistics, they shift  into a left brain/rational state of mind. Once in the left brain, it’s nearly impossible to break out of it. So make sure you start with creative exercises first. Then, progress into tactics and logistics.

(6) Keep your meetings moving. This is where most of us go off the rails. It’s ok to parking lot conversations or assign them to happen in smaller working groups. The meeting facilitator must take responsibility for keeping meetings on track.

(7) Don’t just meet because you have a weekly meeting scheduled. It’s better to cancel a meeting than waste people’s time. If you aren’t prepared or there isn’t a reason to meet, DON’T!

(8) Think about creative ways to meet. Maybe it’s a 15 minute standing meeting. Maybe it’s a walk and talk meeting. Maybe it’s a rapid fire brainstorm where you outline a problem and shout out ways to solve it in 10 minutes.

(9) Ask for feedback. I often ask teams to email me feedback about my meetings. What’s working? What isn’t? It often depends on the group.

(10) Aim high. My goal for running a great meeting is to make my meeting the best, most productive use of time in someone’s day. I don’t always succeed. But I always try.

What are your tips for great meetings?