Friday, March 25, 2016

Running a 30 minute meeting

How many meetings seem to just drag on forever? I can't tell you how many meetings I've attended that could have just been an email. Please just send me your updates. Only get us together if it requires discussion towards a decision.

The art of a good meeting is keeping everything on topic, with a productive discussion. It's all about maintaining focus. And that's the point of this February article from Opensource.com, about six steps to running the perfect 30 minute meeting. Although I would condense this list down to five elements, combining their "referee" item with their "remember why you're there" item.

Here's my simplified list, based on the article:

1. Test any technology items beforehand
Are you planning to use a smartboard in your meeting? Or are you going to bring a laptop to connect to the projector? I recommend you test the setup well before the meeting to make sure you know how to use it, and to ensure that you can leverage it in the meeting the way you hope to. Your meeting time shouldn't be spent debugging the technology, or getting your wireless connection to work in an unfamiliar space.
2. Limit the meeting to just those who need to be there
Start with this question: What is your meeting topic? Based on that, take a careful look at the attendee list. Who really needs to be there, and who are you inviting just to keep them in the loop? You aren't doing anyone any favors by burning their time in a meeting. Consider trimming the invite list to just those people who have a stake in the discussion and decision. Everyone else can get an email afterwards to let them know of the outcome.
3. Be clear on meeting outcomes
What is the purpose of the meeting? Do you want to build understanding around a difficult topic? Or are you looking for a decision at the end of a discussion? When building your agenda, I find it helps to clearly state the intended outcome of each topic.
4. Avoid presentations
The first rule of using Powerpoint is don't use Powerpoint. If you must use Powerpoint, at least don't make your slides distracting, or you risk losing your audience. You may one day need to give a presentation for others. Remember the general rules to give a truly outstanding presentation: Avoid distractions. Use slides that are visual, not wordy. Share your enthusiasm. Leave room to talk around the bullet points.
5. Keep the topics moving along
As the convener of the meeting, it's your job to keep the meeting focused on the agenda topics. Be cautious if the meeting discussion goes astray, exploring tangents to topics, then tangents to those tangents. If you aren't careful, a meeting can quickly devolve to a discussion about esoteric topics. It's okay to explore an issue to move depth, but be ready to pull back the discussion to the topic at hand. Side topics can wait for another day, taken "off line," or perhaps shared as an email update.
image: PortoBay Hotels & Resorts/Flickr (cc-by)

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