Meetings happen every workday. For some, the number of meetings on their daily schedule is a new badge of honor. It is a bragging point – “My day is filled with back-to-back-to-back meetings.” Meetings are sign of false productivity, yet we keep adding them to our schedule as if we are paid by the number of meetings held.
Think of all the type of meetings we have in a given day:
When we think of meetings, certain emotions (or fears) arise from participants. Think about it:
- Dread – “Here we go again.”
- Frustrated – “We never make a decision that sticks.”
- Déjà vu – “Didn’t we meet on this last week?”
- Fruitless – “That was a waste of two hours!”
We need to meet. We just need to meet in better ways.
What type of meetings do people want to attend?
When we consider the type of meetings that we like to attend, we gain insights not only on our preferences but also on what we may need to change to deliver a better meeting experience. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe most people think about a “meeting experience” prior to scheduling one.
We need to shift our thinking to embrace experience in on how we meet. When we do this, we shift the flow and achieve better outcomes. With experience as a frame, let’s explore the type of meetings people want.
At times, we just need to gather and have a conversation. A topic is selected and communicated. Participants have time to research, read, and think about it. Everyone comes prepared, and an engaging, thoughtful conversation unfolds.
We leave with new perspectives.
In the political world, townhall meetings have become too staged. Townhall meetings serve a role in enabling leaders to listen and engage. When done right, any issue can be raised in a civil, respectful way. From a leadership perspective, it is to listen and provide some insight. From a participant perspective, it is an open forum.
We leave feeling our voice was heard and a greater awareness of what weighs on the whole organization rather than just a sliver.
In advance, a clear objective is set. A two-page memo is sent before the meeting, outlining the objective, background information, discussion points, and recommendation. During the meeting, the objective is a constant presence as the recommendations are explored and, after productive discussions, a decision is made on how to proceed. As part of the process, metrics and checkpoints are decided and planned.
We leave with a go-forward plan that each participant feels a sense of ownership in the decision and what is next.
An intense meeting is a variation of the focused one. At times, we know a meeting is arriving that will contain an intensity like no other. We do not fear them if done right. Prior to the meeting, we discuss the issue with the various participants. We gain their insights and concerns. Research is completed to provide information and analysis of what has been expressed in advance. A few days prior to the intense meeting, the information is sent. Each participant comes prepared to dig in, voice their informed opinion, and reach a decision. Taking a page from Jeff Bezos, there is no Day 2. What this means is that we will never have perfect information and we do not have to have complete agreement. We do need trust and an ability to reach a decision that we can move forward with.
We leave with an intensity released, knowing we put forward the best information to make the best decision with the best people.
Unstructured meetings still have an objective, and they are one of possibilities. Without defined requirements of what is needed, we can explore. Suggestions and ideas can seem impossible to implement. Within the dreaming and imagining, a renewed sense of what can be done emerges. Rather than putting a new wrapper around an old idea, we advance new ideas without a preconceived wrapper. Innovation rises.
We leave with ideas that can work. We feel alive in what is possible and doable.
We just need to learn. The only outcome is to enjoy learning something new. More than a lecture, it is discussion as new information is presented. Our minds think anew. Our perspective broadens. We are stretched in our thinking. Our mindset shifts and grows.
We leave with a better understanding of our market, our community, our company, our competitors, our processes, our culture, or our solutions.
Design a Better Meeting Experience
When we design a better meeting experience, we gain more engagement. More than employee engagement, we gain better ideas, better plans, and better results.
Meetings can be a good experience. Considering the best meetings, I feel a part of the process and the people gathered. I feel a sense of responsibility to raise my perspective and then do the work afterward. I feel a sense of purpose in the organization. We need this sense of experience in our meetings.