Whether it’s a regular team meeting, a one-off training event or the annual sales presentation, at least a handful of employees will probably complain that it’s going to be a boring, unproductive time-suck. And, if we’re honest, this impression isn’t always as mistaken as we’d like it to be.
As corporate planners, this adds an extra layer of complexity to an already challenging job. Because it’s true. Planned incorrectly, meetings can stretch on for hours, go over ground that’s been covered many times before and generally leave the participants in a zombie-like daze.
But, if you plan them well, company meetings are the perfect opportunity to engage employees, inspire them to keep doing better and make them feel more invested in the company’s values and overall vision.
In this post, we’ll show you how to steer clear of common meeting pitfalls and plan a company meeting everyone will look forward to attending.
Setting Your Objectives
According to this study, one of the most common grievances employees have about company meetings is that they lack a clear purpose. Instead, the usual buzz words are bandied about over and over at successive meetings without ever reaching a specific outcome. This demotivates your attendees and makes them feel like they’ve wasted their time.
Setting objectives serves three important purposes:
– it makes it easier to plan the meeting;
– it shows that the meeting is a necessary and productive part of the workday; and
– by asking yourself whether the objectives have been met, you can measure how effective the meeting actually was.
Creating an Effective Agenda
The agenda is the blueprint for your meeting. It should clearly show your attendees what’s expected of them and make it possible for everyone to identify at which point the meeting has reached its natural end.
If this sounds like a tall order, fear not. Here are three tips to help you design a realistic and effective agenda.
Seek your participants’ input
Asking participants for their input ensures the agenda is made up of items that affect them.
As humans, we tend to take a lot more interest if an issue is personally valuable to us. So, including items that actually reflect your participants’ needs will engage them and give them the sense that the meeting will be a productive use of their time.
Frame agenda items as questions
Many agendas list topics simply as phrases – “Q2 sales results”, for instance, or “team-building activity.” This comes off as overly broad and ambiguous. Which can leave your attendees wondering what they should expect?
Questions, on the other hand, demand answers. Should someone go off-track, you can quickly get back to the point by asking “What’s the connection to the question we’re trying to address?” It’s also easier to know when a discussion can be considered closed.
Most likely you have partners, customers and other important people all around the world. Most likely you’re having teleconferences. To make the best of them we suggest you take a look at these 10 Smart Tips For Running a Productive Teleconference.
Note the purpose of each item on the agenda
By noting the purpose of each item on the agenda, attendees will know whether they’re expected to give input, participate in decision-making, or simply listen and take note. This lets everyone know how they should prepare for the meeting and avoids a lot of misunderstandings and frustration.
A Note on Scheduling
Getting your scheduling right is super-important. You’ll want to make sure your meeting starts and finishes on time and, more importantly, has a reasonable duration.
Staying on track
How well you can stick to the meeting schedule is all about preparation and getting the math right.
It’s a good idea to set out the steps you need to go through for each and every item on the agenda, as it makes the whole process a lot more effective. It also avoids situations where some of your attendees are wrapping up the discussion while others are still trying to get to grips with the issue.
You’ll also need to allocate enough time for each item. Most people tend to underestimate this, so try to err on the side of caution. The University of Wisconsin’s Office of Quality Improvement has a great resource on how to allocate meeting time effectively.
How long should meetings last?
This is the million dollar question, isn’t it?
Make the meeting too long and you’ll lose your audience. But make it too short, and there may not be enough time for the meeting to be effective and reach its stated goal.
According to research by Solid, attention during meetings tends to drop after about 52 minutes. Which means your meeting starts becoming ineffective if it runs longer than this. So, for best results, you should time them to last 50 minutes or less.
If you’re planning a longer meeting or a multi-day event, you’ll need to split up the agenda into 40 to 45 minute sessions, ensuring you allow enough break time in between. This gives your attendees’ brains time to recover and refocus their attention.
Creating Engagement and Active Participation
Proper planning is only half the battle. You also need to find ways to engage your attendees and motivate them to actively participate in the meeting.
Active participation is crucial. It makes your attendees stay more focused and retain information better. And, at the end of the meeting, they’ll feel they’ve accomplished something, which makes it likelier that they’ll look forward to the next one.
Start with a warm-up
Warm up games are fun. And they require everyone’s attention, which helps ease your attendees into the swing of things. They also improve collaboration and trust, which sets the stage for a more effective meeting.
One classic warm-up exercise involves calling a letter and naming a person whose name starts with that letter. You can do this by going around the table. Or, for a more energetic version, get each attendee to toss Catchbox to the person who’s turn it is.
You can find a comprehensive resource of warm-up meeting activities on the Team First Development website.
Throw in an energiser or two
For longer meetings, avoid attention slumps by throwing in some energising activities. These are short activities designed to raise energy levels at key parts of the meeting, for instance right after the lunch break.
Word association can work well as an energiser; and has the added bonus of being perfect for kickstarting a brainstorming session. Once again, you can perk things up by using Catchbox to gather words and ideas from around the room.
Rethink your meeting format
Company meetings don’t necessarily have to involve sitting around a boardroom table or looking up at a stage. Depending on your meeting’s objective, you can make it more effective and inspiring simply by changing its format.
Here are a few ideas:
– organise an inspirational tour of another company;
– hold a ‘notes day’, where teams reflect on company challenges in small groups and present their findings to other departments;
– use the “fishbowl” format, where your attendees switch from passive listening mode to active participant mode at regular intervals.
Putting a company meeting together requires a lot of time and effort, so it just makes sense for you to follow up.
Following up serves two important purposes. Firstly, it’s a way to ensure your attendees follow through on any action agreed during the meeting. This instills a sense of accountability and reinforces the idea that the meeting was productive.
More to the point, however, you can get valuable feedback about the meeting from employees. Which will allow you to measure the meeting’s effectiveness, build on what went well and make improvements.
What are your thoughts about company meetings? Are there any particular strategies you use to ensure your meetings are successful? Tell us in the comments section.
And if you’ve found this useful, don’t forget to share with your colleagues on Facebook or Twitter. Let’s all do our bit to make company meetings more meaningful and inspiring for everyone!