Many of us lead meetings, and yet I often hear leaders say meetings are a waste of time, they are boring, or it is unclear what is being achieved by getting together.
To be honest, I have run boring meetings too and I have been in meetings which are a waste of time. I have also been in purposeful meetings, even when there was no agenda, and where I experienced both my and others’ participation was worthwhile.
One of the keys to an effective meeting is to provide a structure for the meeting.
Many people use an agenda to structure meetings, and this is one approach. Another approach is to allow people to arrive, tune into the purpose and each other, and create a process for everyone to contribute.
I prefer leading and participating in meetings with the second approach.
I have identified six keys for beginning meetings, and two for concluding them. This approach will take the initial 6 – 7 minutes of the meeting:
- Begin with a welcome, which includes all participants. An example is ‘welcome everyone’ or ‘kia ora koutou’.
- Then express your appreciation to the participants. Everyone present has made a conscious choice to be there. One simple way of doing this is to say ‘ thank you for coming’, or ‘thank you for being here’.
- The next principle, one of the more difficult ones, is to make a personal statement: ‘I am looking forward to our work together’ or, ‘I am pleased to see you all here’. Many leaders might say ‘it is good to see you all here.” One of my supervisors encouraged me to express myself saying, “it, it, what is ‘it’ You can put ‘it’ in a wheelbarrow and wheel it around! What I am encouraging here, is to be personal, bring yourself into the picture, rather than ‘it’ when you are leading groups.
- Outline the purpose so that everyone is clear why they are there: ‘Our purpose today is to resolve…”.
- Acknowledge people’s potential contributions – this communicates your vision for everyone’s contribution. You may want to say something like ‘Our work today will have quite an impact on…’ or ‘I know each of you brings a wide range of experience, and I am looking forward to hearing your ideas on how we might proceed’.
- Finally, provide a process in which people can participate. The simplest version of this is, ‘how about we hear briefly from everyone on…’ or, ‘I’ve given this some thought, so how about I kick-off, then each of you can add your comments?’. Or try, ‘let’s begin with you Fred, outlining what you think the main concerns are with what has happened, then each of us can add to this, so we have the full picture before we proceed in how we will address what is happening.’
Your meeting is underway!
© Diana Jones