There’s a lot of professional advice out there on how to conduct effective meetings. And some pretty good tips, too.
Except it rarely goes according to plan, does it?
A perfect example of this was last Friday. I was asked to join a meeting and share ideas on a project with a team I’d never met before.
They had been working on the execution of a multi million pound investment for the last 6 months. I arrived in a meeting room with about 10 total strangers. Despite there being an agenda, smart people in the room and various briefing packs circulated beforehand, it quickly became obvious that the people in the room had many (too many) things to discuss – but actually zero clue as to what they’d like to achieve in the next 50 minutes.
“Half of every working day is spent in meetings, half of which are not worth having, and of those that are, half the time is wasted” – Guy Browning
meeting success tips
It was the perfect opportunity to conduct a ‘live test’ for this post; here are 3 effective strategies for such situations
Fake it until you figure it out
We had a round of introductions at the start, with each person giving their name and role on the project. The third person to introduce herself announced her name, paused, and then and finally said ‘actually I’m not quite sure what my role is on the project’. She might as well have been beamed out of our meeting aboard the Enterprise, because no one really paid much attention to her afterwards.
Ask the obvious question
The winner in that meeting was the one who asked: ‘just so I understand how best to help you and contribute to this conversation, what are the questions you’d like to answer in this meeting.. and what sort of outcome would you find useful?’. Classy, direct and got everyone’s attention.
Be the voice of the bottom line
There is always someone who wants to bring in fluffy concepts into the picture. Use magic words like revenues, profitability or competitive advantage (my favourite). It will get things moving, and it’s good for your reputation.
The downside? You’ll probably get invited to more meetings.