We’ve all got examples of bad meetings. Whether they disrespect the time boundaries set up at the beginning, or they go down rabbit holes to topics not on the agenda, meetings aren’t typically something people look forward to. One common theme we hear about is the lack of engagement and meaningful connection taking place in these meetings. They are often planned for the purpose of sharing information only. We’re kicking off a series for the next three weeks about ways to disrupt toxic meeting culture. Let’s start with how great meetings create connections.
A meeting is defined simply as “an act or process of coming together” by Merriam-Webster. “Discussion” is very often implied, if not outright stated, as an objective. One way we’ve seen meetings go badly is in their total lack of actual discussion. What’s the point in getting a group of people together if you aren’t going to take advantage of their collective brain power? Here are a few ways to build opportunities for connections into your next meeting.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Not questions where the answer is “yes” or “no”. Not questions which are rhetorical. Not questions where you want people to guess at the “right” answers. All these scenarios train participants to stay quiet. Instead, try questions which engage their brains. Here are just a few examples.
- If we tried X, what do you think are the possible risks?
- If we tried Y, how do you think we could see some benefit?
- What are your ideas about (fill in the blank)?
If you ask these or other open-ended questions, be prepared to accept whatever answer comes your way. You’re asking for possibilities, thoughts, ideas, opinions, maybe feelings. There are no wrong answers for those.
Get More People Involved
Don’t invite more people to the meeting. Get more people involved in the running of the meeting. Appoint a timekeeper and give them permission to hold everyone to the time. Ask more people to lead the discussions on the topics on the agenda. Create a round-robin forum for contributing ideas on topics, with warning. Don’t put people on the spot without warning. It doesn’t usually go well. But with warning, asking for input from everyone can be a great way to get more engagement.
Don’t Leave Without Summarizing
One of the worst things, which is also so easily avoidable, is for people to leave the meeting without clarity about what comes next. Do not leave this to chance. Take five minutes (or less) at the end of the meeting to simply go back through the agenda. For each topic, answer the question, WHO will do WHAT by WHEN? If you discover any unfinished business, schedule the next meeting with the appropriate people. Ask for commitment from those who have tasks.
When people make more connections during meetings, they mind meetings less. Using these simple tips for creating those opportunities will help.
Next week: Great meetings have the right agenda. Stay tuned!