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Private: Meet Less, Do More: 4 Foolproof Tips For Effective Meetings

Meetings suck—usually—but they don't have to! Follow these expert tips on how to maximize your meetings.
by Emily Phillips | Jun 14 2016

The people have spoken. When asked to vote for your biggest pet peeve about meetings, our (very scientific) Twitter poll provided the following data:

Good news! Seems as if unhealthy snacks are rarely the biggest problem during meetings (or maybe you’re just eating them without remorse?). All too familiar, however, are the common complaints of struggling through a meeting that feels endless and rapidly goes off topic, while suffering that one colleague who hijacks conversation. Fear not! We’ve scoured the best titles on effective communication and facilitation and gathered four pieces of advice to help you run seamless meetings. Read ‘em, use ‘em, and the next meeting you host is sure to be wildly successful.

1. Cut To The Chase

Did you know that you’ve only got seven seconds to keep people’s attention? Seven seconds is pretty darn short, so strip your introduction of any pleasantries and never, ever begin with a housekeeping list. Instead, start off strong with an attention-grabbing statistic or funny (and relevant!) anecdote. This will pique others’ interest and help set an energetic and friendly tone for the meeting. Explore more ways to communicate effectively in As We Speak How To Make Your Point and Have it Stick.

2. Follow The Golden Goal Rule

Once you have everyone’s undivided attention, state the goal of the meeting. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is absolutely essential. By clearly stating the meeting’s goal, you define your intentions from the very beginning. And if a conversation veers off track, you can save the day by referring back to the stated goal and anchoring the conversation. So ask yourself in advance: what do I want to achieve at the conclusion of this meeting? Then, let everybody know! For more on structuring an effective presentation, check out Talk Lean by Alan H. Palmer.

3. Context is King

We’re all busy, our attention divided between conflicting interests and commitments. One approach is to place the goal of the meeting within the context of two important things: long-term strategy and people’s personal goals. If your teammates can understand how the goal of the meeting fits into the grand scheme of things and are convinced that it is in their own interest to remain engaged, this will reinforce focus, mute external noise, and bolster motivation. Michael K. Simpson’s Unlocking Potential is full of tips on how to motivate a team.

4. Name the Decision Maker

Not all meetings are created equal. Sometimes there’s a lot at stake, and everyone’s emotions are running high. Even if you’ve managed to keep your teammates’ attention and the conversation is on track, ambivalence about who calls the shots and has decision-making power can derail an otherwise productive meeting. Alongside stating a clear goal and contextualizing the task at hand, make sure to clarify who has decision-making power. Without it, your meeting is less likely to come to a satisfying conclusion. Navigate through high-stake situations like a pro by reading Crucial Conversations.

We come together for meetings because we can’t do everything all by ourselves. Everyone in attendance has a role to play, whether it’s helping to conceptualize a new initiative or plan its execution, review a recent project’s outcome, or address a nagging problem in the workplace. Keep things productive with these four tips, and before you know it, everyone will look forward to their next calendar invite!

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