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If you work in an office and attend meetings and you’ve never read “Death by Meetings” by Patrick Lencioni, you should. It’s a classic, quick read. Lencioni uses stories, or fables as he calls them, to describe those terrible, energy-draining meetings which we all have experienced. He then breaks down the fundamentals of great meetings and provides solid tactics to turn boring wastes of time into energy producing, focused gatherings.
How you run your meetings and how you use your tools matters. Lencioni provides some excellent examples of what not to do, and how to structure a great meeting. Lucky for us, the principles of a great meeting integrates with how Bria Teams is designed to work.
What makes a great meeting?
One key factor that enables a great meeting is the right amount of drama. Shouting and fist slamming are not ideal for any good interaction, but boredom does not inspire creative, dynamic thinking either. Find the right balance between the two, identify a challenging task to discuss, bring the right people in the room and set a precise goal for your conversation. Allocating enough time to research for a meeting results in informed thoughts from team members rather than impulsive opinions.
The second key theme is right structure. If you have regular meetings without a clear purpose, your team will not know if they are debating, voting, brainstorming, weighing in or just listening. If someone is bringing up an idea to see if it has merit to pursue further - they may need some quick reactions from the group to see if it’s worth spending time to develop the idea further. However if someone has spent months working up an idea into a proposal and is bringing it forward for a vote to proceed, they don’t want a brainstorming response. Giving your team the context about how to respond through structure and preparation are important ways you can set a meeting up for success.
Usually it’s assumed that everyone is in the same physical space when it comes to meetings. However it doesn’t fit with how we work today in the modern office. Someone is going to be traveling, someone is going to be at home or remote. Bria Teams offers you all the tools to run meetings seamlessly by streamlining your communications on one platform.
1. Start with clear objectives
It’s important to identify what a meeting is for. We’re all busy people with a lot on our minds. From key priorities at work, to what is going on at home, to that delicious sandwich we’re looking forward to at lunch. If you’re leading a meeting, or planning one - make sure you give everyone a quick, gentle reminder about the focus of the meeting. If it’s a daily standup, call out when someone gets too deep in a subject. If it’s a monthly strategy meeting, be aware of someone in the room who is listening, but not contributing. The best way to accomplish this is through a clear, concise agenda. List who is attending, the purpose of the meeting and the topics to be covered. Identify those 3 basic Ps in your agenda- People, Purpose and Payoffs. Start with:
- having a clear facilitator or leader for the meeting.
- identifying if you’re covering a new idea and want fresh thinking. If you’re reviewing a document, provide it in advance for review.
- knowing what the ideal outcome would be.
You can use Bria Teams to provide an agenda in advance, or send it through IM before a meeting to ensure everyone is clear on the type of meeting and its goals.
2. Invite intelligently
It’s easy to scoop up everyone who should be consulted for a meeting in your invite. Think through who needs to be in a meeting and who needs to be informed or consulted. If you’re reviewing a document, can any of your meeting attendees review the material in advance and provide comments? With Bria Presence and instant messaging, you can identify someone who may need to step into and out of a meeting when there are key decision points. They can be available for the meeting time and near a phone or computer. When you need their quick review and decision, message or call them through Bria, link them into the conversation for a quick summary, then collect their input and release them from the meeting. You’ll be surprised at how much people appreciate you respecting their time.
3. No running overtime
Your agenda should have the points you’re looking to cover in a meeting, the person leading the conversation on those points and the rough time you expect to dedicate to those points. If one item on your list should take 5 minutes, stick to that time frame and schedule a follow up if there is significant discussion around this point. Record the key points in your notes and identify those you’re going to follow up with another meeting to continue the conversation, or if possible, identify the group of people who should follow up outside the meeting on their own time. Sometimes 2 people can finish their conversation and update the group with the outcome. If items take less time on your agenda than you expect, end your meeting early. A meeting that covers the schedule efficiently and ends early, always feels better.
4. Take no hostages
If you’re leading a meeting, then make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. Don’t let one person monopolize the conversation. If someone is talking too much it’s your responsibility to call that person out. You can say something like “We appreciate your perspective, but we need to hear from others before we can make a decision and move on.” If you have to do this more than once, set clear meeting ground rules as you start, or add them to the agenda and refer back to them.
5. Be precise
We’ve all had those meetings where you get on a conference call or video chat and you spend the first 10 minutes asking if anyone can hear you, who else should be in the meeting or where is that person. When you finally get started, it’s hard to gain momentum and move forward.
Everyone who is waiting has likely started checking email, or had some distraction take their attention elsewhere. Using the same technology and setup, whether you’re at the office, at home, or traveling allows you to connect quickly and reliably with robust software. Bria Teams can help get your team working together faster than ever, with a lot more precision. If you have a solid agenda, you can see who should be in the room and use presence to see where they are. You can reach out through IM and ask if they’re on their way or if you can begin without them if they are caught up in another meeting or call, or alert when the meeting is going overtime. With the web-based Bria Teams Portal, you can reliably run crisp meetings, as everyone is on the same tool set.
6. Ban technology or ‘modify’ its use
You can ban technology from the meeting room if everyone is in the same physical space. The goal of removing technology is to keep your focus on the purpose of the meeting. But it is complex to ban technology for others who need to stay connected, or actually do research during a meeting. Ultimately, technology helps to:
- have your team available for check ins or connected if you’re working from home, or traveling
- raise your hand in a meeting using IM to speak next
- watch for cues that interested in speaking to a topic or following up on a point if you’ve got a group of people in a meeting room and a handful of people remote
- add your name to a list, or IM a note if you’d like to speak to the same topic, or branch to a new idea
- and lastly, add links, references, notes to help guide the discussion, support the ideas that everyone is bringing forward in the meeting and direct the meeting
Using technology in a meeting is like any other discipline. If you’re bored, you’ll look out the window or doodle with your pencil. Maintaining attention should be the responsibility of the person setting up the meeting, with the right people in the room, a focused agenda and a clear objective. If you have that, then the technology in your hands will be used for the right purpose-to conduct effective meetings.
7. Follow up
Whatever you discuss during a meeting, unless it’s a 5 min standup, you’ll likely have notes, action items and follow up items. You can use the Bria messaging history to pull notes out, identify who from the group picked up a task, and assign an owner and a completion date for each action item. You can also use group messaging and integrated file sharing to send out the follow up notes to the participants in the conversation, and those who need to be informed or consulted on any outcomes, especially the non-attendees. You should always do this within 24 hours. But Bria Teams allows you to collect and send notes as a follow up in minutes, or as a real time output of your conversation.
With a consistent format, meetings can be turned from boring to energetic with a good use of your teams’ time. To summarize, a great meeting structure is only possible with great collaboration.
Start collaborating with Bria Teams and run efficient meetings: