5 Tips for Great Meetings and The Hidden Benefits

Meetings are necessary & can be a great use of time, for the right purpose and with the right structure. Here are hidden benefits & 5 tips for great meetings.

Tips for Great MeetingsThat’s right, my last post was about how much meetings suck (costs). So why am I writing about great meetings now? Because meetings are still necessary and can be a great use of time, for the right purpose and with the right structure. For all we complain about them, meetings still serve many purposes. There are the obvious benefits:

Obvious Meeting Benefits

1. Alignment: Rather than spending countless hours reading through email chains and clarifying meaning, meetings are often the most effective means to ensure alignment.

2. Brainstorming: When a solution is not readily available or you need innovative concepts, a brainstorming meeting may be just what the doctor ordered.

3. Education: When the education of individuals is necessary, meetings are often the best solution. This is not the same as a class, but more targeted – such as when educating a group on current financial challenges.

In addition, there are some less obvious benefits for meetings:

Hidden Meeting Benefits

1. Socializing: One of the most common complaints of meetings is unnecessary banter that wastes everyone’s time. I agree. However, the brief socializing before or after the defined meeting time can be an important factor in team building and employee engagement.

2. Awareness: Issues that are not formally relayed in written communications have a tendency be uncovered during meetings. The back-and-forth dialogue may create awareness to risks and issues otherwise not defined.

3. Development: Professional development often occurs in meetings. As individuals are challenged to speak up to their peers and even superiors, team members develop communication skills, character and quick thinking.

So, if meetings suck a lot of money and time, how can you make your meetings great? The key is awareness of the issues that typically suck money, time and morale: wasted time, unnecessary travel, excessive reporting and so on. Then, do your best to avoid these issues.

Tips for a Great Meeting

1. Keep it Short Stupid: A variation on Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) – Keep It Short! Calendar software often defaults to 30 minutes or an hour. Don’t just take the default – consider how much time the discussion should take, then only request the necessary time. I love 15 minute meetings.

2. Agenda: Common sense is not so common. Those that lack it often lack agendas too. Meetings should include a list of items to enable others to prepare and set expectations. These do not have to be lengthy or detailed – a brief list of topics goes a long way in preparation and alignment.

3. Accountability: Ensure accountability and expectations. I do this by capturing action items in bold in meeting notes, along with the accountable person. For example: AI: Write post for the benefits and importance of meetings (BEN).

4. Go Virtual: Studies suggest productivity is reduced by as much as 40% when switching between activities. If the meeting is short, why add 15 to 30 minutes onto it by making attendees lock their PC, walk (or worse, drive) to the meeting room, wait for others to attend and then reset themselves when they get back? Try a teleconference and / or web session instead.

5. Standing Room Only: I love this idea – insist on your attendees standing throughout the meeting – especially on routine check-ins. I admit, I rarely make others stand. However, I do find that standing myself – especially on conference calls, keeps my own focus on brevity and helps me drive the meeting to conclusion quickly.

Question: What other advice do you have for great meetings?

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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

9 thoughts on “5 Tips for Great Meetings and The Hidden Benefits”

  1. I love the stand up meetings. I used to run a daily check in meeting at the start of the day and if we stood it took 5 minutes. If we sat it was at least 15 and sometimes 30 minutes. If we stood people were free after 5 minutes but they spent the next 10 minutes getting the info they needed and were productive

    1. There’s a great lesson in your example, Brent: Anyone trying something new in your regular meetings, track the benefits and share them with the team. If anyone thought you were silly for asking them to stand during the meeting – just point out the realized benefit. Thank you for sharing, Brent.

  2. My organization finds it beneficial to not mix and match agendas. Some meetings we focus on skill, others on strategy,others on support. We got the idea from Patrick Lencioni’s, “Death by Meeting”. I’m tempted to add another category, “Slog”. Once in a while we need to slog through this agenda until we get items like budget done. Dragging it over multiple meetings is an energy drainer. Getting it done, gets us back on track to more productive meetings in the long run.

    When we added accountability to action items, we discovered a lot more action on those items. When we set the agenda in our support meeting, we have better overall participation of all involved.

    Thanks for some great advice on making meetings better. I’m ready to start moving to a few stand up meetings.

  3. Excellent, excellent, excellent. What do you do when you need all the benefits but all your people are in different geographic locations. With fuel going to $6 (in Canada) a gallon by July 1, what do we do? I manage volunteer lay ministers who are traveling and coming to these meetings on their own coin….. Some good advice but could use some more……

    1. In my company, we recently bought into Telepresence.  This allows all folks to sit on an even playing field even while sitting in disparate locations.   It’s really made a difference for me as before Telepresence, I was generally the only person not actually in the meeting room.

  4. Pingback: Weekender Links – 4/23/11 | MyOneResolution

  5. I run a rather large weekly conference call  (WebEx) and have up to 30 folks throughout North America sitting in each week.  How well we work together as a team is critical to the larger group’s success so I try to spend time to start each meeting in building these relationships.  Each meeting first begins with a Safety Share (zero incidents are key in my industry) and follow this up with a tech share (I manage an IT group).  No sense in hiding the tips and tricks.  This kind of sharing has really helped bring the team closer together.  If someone supporting one of our remote sites runs into an issue, they feel more comfortable reaching out to that person who had just provided a tech share on a similar topic.  These two acts do take up the first 10-15 minutes of the call but this can sometimes be the best points of full group discussion.

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