5 Steps to Abolish Painful Meetings

I’m happy to present a guest-post from friend, Briana Borten. 

Get ready to be rejuvenated! In this article, you will learn my patented method for sleeping with your eyes open. It’s guaranteed to fool 9 out of 10 of your coworkers during tedious meetings that seem to accomplish nothing. You snooze, they lose!

No, wait, I have a method that is even better! I will instead teach you to make meetings engaging and effective. The best part is, at the end of the meeting, you are much less likely to have drool on your chin than with the first method. Here’s what to do:

1. Have a goal. It seems pretty obvious, yet it’s often overlooked. The goal needs to be specific and measurable so that you know if it’s been achieved at the end of the meeting. You also need to communicate the goal to everyone present, preferably before the meeting starts. If you don’t have a goal for a meeting, don’t bother having the meeting

2. Create an agenda and send it out 2 days before  the meeting.  Your agenda should include the following information:

  • Topic
  • Subtopics. Presenters should be told how exactly much time they will have for each subtopic, and the Time Keeper (see below) should have a chart showing the minute-by-minute procession of the meeting (e.g., 1:00-1:05: Opening comments. 1:05-1:15: Kathy discusses ban on saggy pants. Etc.)
  • List the following four job titles and the names of the people you’ve appointed to them:
    • Presenter – usually the person that called the meeting, this person moves everyone through the agenda
    • Secretary – takes minutes and sends these to everyone after the meeting
    • Task Master – keeps the meeting on topic, reminds participants to get to the bottom line,  and tables ideas that are not on point
    • Time Keeper – keeps the meeting flowing on time according to the minutes allotted for each subtopic
  • Total duration of the meeting
  • Pre-work
  • Expected Outcome (i.e., goal)

3. Set ground rules for the meeting. For example: phones off, don’t interrupt, table off-topic conversations, no eating, try to use the bathroom beforehand and on breaks, etc.  Rather than conveying the rules in a way that sets up a power differential between the ones making the rules and everyone else, strive for a sense of common agreement. Ask the participants for additional suggestions. I have found that threatening to cut fingers off for breaking rules is not the best way to ensure compliance, because worker efficiency goes WAY downhill after a couple of fingers are gone. Instead, find a respectful way to encourage everyone to monitor themselves, and reiterate the rules after a break, if necessary.

4. Clarify action steps.  At the end of your meeting it is imperative to clarify the next action steps that must be taken, and who will be performing them. You can either go around the room and have each individual list their own, or the presenter or secretary can list them. Either way, there are 3 important details to cover:

  • Identify the action and the owner
  • Set specific details, including the date due
  • Schedule follow up

5. Review minutes. The secretary should have minutes to the team soon enough that they can review what was covered, including all the action details, while it’s still fresh for them – ideally within 24 hours.

Once you have managed to create an awesome framework for your meetings you can start making them shorter! Yeah! Most people set meetings for an hour because their calendars default to that time frame. But with a few simple steps, you can gain valuable time to do other things (like updating your Facebook status).

  • Stand up. Most people won’t linger on an issue if their feet hurt. Ask people to stand to speak, or better yet, remove chairs from the room. When standing, people are often more attentive and engaged. If there must be chairs, something not too comfortable will keep people from falling asleep. Removing one leg from each chair will also keep people on their toes.
  • Use a timer. Make the Time Keeper’s minute-by-minute agenda public and use stopwatch or the timer on your phone to stick to it. When time is up, assign next steps and move on.
  • Show the cost of the meeting. At the top of the agenda, show the calculated hourly cost of having the group together. When people realize how much a meeting costs the company, they are more apt to be efficient.

I’d love to hear what you do to keep your meetings interesting and effective. Share your comments below.

Briana Borten of The Dragontree Holistic Day Spa in Portland Oregon
Briana Borten is the owner of The Dragontree Holistic Day Spa in Portland Oregon (www.thedragontree.com and www.thedragontreepdx.com) and Imbue Pain Relief Patch (www.imbuebody.com). Her purpose in life is to create a more peaceful world starting with more peaceful individuals. Follow her on twitter @brianaborten

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