We’ve all attended soul-crushing meetings. You know what we mean. The kind of meeting that feels like an unproductive waste of time that will never end. The kind of meeting that has you sneakily checking your phone, daydreaming about new careers or just trying to stay awake.
Unfortunately, if all of us have attended awful meetings, that means most of us have probably led awful meetings.
Research conducted by UNC’s Steven G. Rogelberg and team indicates that leaders rate their own meetings very favorably, considering them more productive than those in attendance do. Of 1,3000 managers surveyed, 79 percent saw their own meetings as extremely or very productive, but only 56 percent felt that way about meetings led by others.
So, we have blindspots for the meetings we organize and lead. That just means we need to take a hard look at our meeting structure, and avoid sucking the souls out of our meeting attendees.
Here are 4 tactics ViveTeams recommends to prevent a crappy meeting:
Give your meeting attendees a heads up on what to expect by sharing an agenda a few days before the meeting.
An agenda will:
Harvard Business Review has some helpful guidelines for creating or honing your agenda for maximum efficiency, including important questions to evaluate your meeting’s success.
Most of us observe standard meeting practices, like deferring to the meeting leader to move through an agenda or assigning someone to recap notes.
But setting clear ground rules can also address the pain points we experience while in meetings. It’s best to establish these rules with your team, so everyone buys in to the new way of conducting meetings.
Some meeting ground rules that might work for your team include:
Ground rules help set expectations for your meeting attendees and give them a little bit of control to refocus when a meeting derails into a soul-suck session.
If you’re just going to read from your slide deck, then you don’t need a slide deck. There, we said it.
The use of PowerPoint and other slideshow resources should be limited to when you need that audio visual support. If you’re using images to demonstrate the topic, or adding some humor with memes, then a slide deck might be helpful.
But, there is likely a better way to present your information. We like this concept from Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Bezos banned PowerPoint presentations in exec meetings, and replaced them with a six-page memo giving background for the meeting.
Meeting attendees read this memo at the start of the meeting in a “study-hall” session. The narrative form of background information works well with how we process information, and gets everyone on the same page for the topic at hand.
While you might not need a six-page narrative for each meeting, thinking outside the slide deck for different ways to present your information will help your attendees stay engaged.
The Pomodoro is not only a delicious tomato, it’s also a method for managing your day that can be applied to meetings.
In a nutshell (or a tomato peel): The Pomodoro Technique encourages breaking work into 25-minute sections, separated by five-minute breaks. After four of these intervals (call Pomodoros) you take a break of 15-20 minutes. During these breaks you can stand up, grab a coffee, chat with a coworker, check some email and then begin the process again.
The concept here is to focus intently on the project at hand for those 25-minute sections and then give your brain a break. The Pomodoro Technique helps prevent burnout, reduces distractions and gives time to relax.
The concept, developed by Francesco Cirillo, was based on his use of a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato. You can purchase these cute timers to help you employ the technique, or download one of many Pomodoro Method apps available.
Try applying the concept to your longer meetings or retreats by creating an agenda that follows these Pomodoro intervals to keep your meeting moving and your team energized.
Again, let’s remember that the leader of a meeting tends to think it’s more successful than the attendees. So we need to keep their perspectives in mind. Your meeting attendees have other important work to complete, they might have missed another meeting to attend yours, and their time matters.
By creating a good agenda, clear rules and focusing on efficiency you can conduct a meeting that feels productive to all involved!
Want some expert advice on how to improve your meetings and team collaboration? Contact ViveTeams today.