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Seven do-or-die questions to run a great meeting

Running an effective meeting is in the top two underdeveloped skills for leaders.

I thought I would never write this insight.

Frankly, I still can’t believe that I do. 

If there’s one thing I would expect that any team leader knows how to do well, it’s to run a meeting.

But unfortunately, running an effective meeting is in the top two underdeveloped skills for leaders.

The number one underdeveloped skill is how to have a proper conversation with someone. 

Both are strongly related; a team meeting is, in fact, nothing more than a conversation with more people involved.

I decided to write this insight because the problem is only getting bigger according to me. And consequently, the amount of time, and therefore money, wasted in meetings is exorbitantly high.

So high that if you could put a money amount on it, every company would immediately review its meeting culture and invest in meetings skills.

But we don’t, because we’re supposed to know this basic stuff. And because it’s hard to measure. 

And if we could measure, we still wouldn’t because we’re afraid of what would come out of our analysis.

The closest to measuring I’ve ever seen was a competitive retailer who had a methodology developed where they could assess the cost of a meeting based on people in the room and their salaries per minute.

The calendar application added an estimate to each meeting based on those input variables. This company also added a cost per email, based on the person who wrote the email, the number of words, and the average amount it would take to type those words. As you’re typing the email, the cost of the email shows at the bottom of your screen.

That’s how far some are willing to go.

Alternatively, you can stick to these seven do-or-die questions to see your meetings improve:
  1. What’s the issue?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. What’s your ideal outcome?
  4. What context can you provide that’s relevant?
  5. What has been done so far?
  6. What options / solutions are you considering?
  7. What help do you need from the people in the room?
Whenever I tried this model with a group, it worked. It’s remarkable how quickly you can brainstorm and get to a solution.

It’s so simple that it hardly gets used because people don’t trust its simplicity. Plus, it requires discipline and asks people to stick to the format and not elaborate and jump on tangents.

Here are a few other tips:
  • Only invite those people to the meeting who will contribute, but be diverse and inclusive in who you pick.
  • No PowerPoint. And if you really have to, only to set the context. Use the rule of thumb that each slide requires at least three minutes of context. So if you have three slides, you need twelve minutes (I recently sat through a 10′ update with 24 slides. The update took 45′).
  • Keep the participants focused and to the point. Don’t allow people to repeat previously made points. Once the point is made, it’s made. It doesn’t matter who made it.
  • Summarize what you heard and what you’re going to do next. Keep the group informed about progress and communicate clearly.

This is how you run a great meeting.

Your turn: how effective are your meetings?

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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