Effective Meetings

by sebsonconferences

A lot of people find meetings ineffective and boring. They feel forced into something and feel they are wasting their time. On the other hand we are working in teams. So getting together and doing something is just one part of the “Team Game” you are taking part in. It is not avoidable and certain stuff is just more effective in a group or must to be done with a group.

1. Invitation

Every meeting must have an invitation. This invitation consists of a Title and a Description of the meetings goal(s) and contents. All the materials that are contents of the meetings should be added to the invitation in order to keep informal parts brief.

Optional: Add a time Schedule. Everyone will be able to know for themselves if the meeting is going into the right direction.

Example:

Decision on Meeting Rules

Dear team, I have worked on some meeting rules, that I want to install company wide. As you all know, I have interviewed people through out the org what they find acceptable and important in meetings as well as what they dislike. Out of this I distilled a set of X Meeting rules that I want to install as a general rule for everyone in order to make sure we dont waste time in meetings. 

Schedule 

  • Welcome (5 min)
  • Presenting the rules and the reasoning behind them (10 minutes)
  • Feedback on the  rules (10 minutes)
  • Break (5 min)
  • Open Discussion – Mini Fishbowl (15 minutes)
  • Voting (5 minutes)
  • Closing (5 minutes)

You find all the informations that I gathered in the attachment feedback.pdf and the propose rules in rules.pdf.

2. Law of two feet

I got this from Open-Space.

If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.

There are those meetings where you don’t know if they are effective or you can be effective in them. Just show up and leave if you don’t want to participate anymore. It is a powerful instrument to know that you can leave anytime. That is a bit like having a Safeword.

3. Time box

A meeting has a definitive time box. Make this timebox not exactly 60 minutes. Make it 25 minutes, 55 minutes (with a 5 minutes break after 25 minutes), or 85 Minutes (incl. 2 breaks). There are people, whose job it is to attend a lot of those meetings (Project Managers for example). Having and using up 60 minutes time boxes will make it virtually impossible to have one meeting after another. As soon as they leave your room at 13:00 and have more than 0 meters to move, they will be late. Same goes for resources like meeting rooms: They are used constantly, so the moment you are using you rtimebox of 60 minutes to a full extend, someone else will be late.

If the meeting can be finished early, fine. If it will take longer: Schedule a new one or do whatever it takes. But don’t break the time box

4. Protocol decisions. 

Decisions and important points must be documented. You are already sitting in a meeting with some people, using up a lot of working hours. If the content of the meeting allows: Use a public Wiki or folder in Google Docs (or whatever means you have in your company). The decisions made and feedback gathered is the value that was created with massive cost (8 persons *1 hr = person day)  so please be disciplined and write a protocol. Just one person in the room document stuff. If you are sitting in a room and don’t have stuff to document, you are probably wasting time anyways.
These protocols make a great and probably searchable “brain” and “memory” of your company.
There might be stuff that needs to be accessible for a smaller round of people. But be aware: ANY effort to  keeps stuff “private” or “secret” is a cost to the company.

Mail the link to the protocol to everyone who was invited (!). Especially the “dropouts”, who used the “law of 2 feet” or didn’t accept the invitation at all will need the information.

5. No devices

Apart from a laptop for the protocol and stuff that needs a projector I don’t want to see any mobile phone, google glass or whatever in your hands. Stop checking company Mail, Tinder dates, Facebook status or what ever you are doing. If you can’t give the meeting you undivided attention: Goto 2. You are disturbing the meeting. This accounts especially for bigger get togethers. How often did I observe 50 people in a room and minimum 10 are checking on their phones. Just for an experiment question these people privately about the contents of the meeting. You will find out that it is hard to memorize stuff when you are looking at the latest set of cat pictures.
Best thing is to get people used to the practice of making a staple of devices or put them all in a box.

 

I think this set of rules makes sense and I would love to get some more opinion on what other people use as ruleset for meetings.