Optimizing and preparing a meeting
Attending to a meeting moderation workshop can be quite interesting to get closer to classic moderation techniques and structured meetings in order to try to listen how to tackle typical meeting problems:
- Too many meetings
- Never-ending meetings
- Not structured meetings
Everyone had those. If you never faced at least one of those problems this post is not for you.
My intention is not to reproduce the whole workshop but to mention what I consider the structural backbone of a successful meeting.
Setting the Meeting
We are genetically engineered to do one task at a time. Which means that we can not do multiple tasks and achieve better qualities at the same time. Period.
So, the one that is moderating can not take notes at the same time, or write an email or answer on Slack, or any other task. By making both of them (or even more than one task at the same time) there is a decrease in the attention given to the rest of tasks.
Therefore the participants can jeopardize their emails and the meetings.
There are some important points that the theory mentions about the preparation of a meeting:
- Define the roles on a meeting: Set up who will be owning the different agenda items. Who will take the notes and take care of the meeting.
- Answer the following questions:
- What is the goal of the meeting?
- What do we want to achieve with the agenda items?
- Which questions are relevant?
- What are the priorities and order of subjects in the agenda?
- Who is in charge of processes or content on each topic of the agenda?
There should be always a couple of minutes to have a smalltalk. With it a better limit is established between what happened before the meeting and the meeting itself.
Answering will help you set up the backbone of the meeting.
If there is no goal or purpose of the meeting; it is a fail even before the start.
Defining the goal of the meeting will help in setting up the agenda clearly. And in return it will help you to ask/answer the requirement questions to meet the goal of the meeting. Therefore you (and all participants) better get prepared a couple of questions one each topic.
Each of the topics might have a priority and a time estimation. That estimation should be done together with the designated owner of that agenda topic. So, you are not preparing alone for the meeting. It must be prepared by all the counterparts.
There are two types of moderation. The classical moderator and the chairman. None of them performs better than the other one.
On the classic moderation the Moderator is the expert on moderation tools and responsible for the meeting processes. The Moderator is not responsible for the content management on the meeting. In classical moderation, the moderator is neutral and does not have influence on the content of the meeting!
There are several tasks that a neutral moderator should accomplish during a meeting:
Tasks of a neutral moderator
- Help the participants to work together effectively to reach the goal of the meeting.
- Create a good environment where competencies can easily be applied.
Take up suggestions from the group to reach a common goal agreed previously by the group.
When the moderator influences the content of the meeting then it starts to play a role closer to a chairman by making decisions, exposing their points of view, etc.
Taking the Minutes
As mentioned before the person who has less influence on the content of the meeting should take the notes. It will help that participant to get more information about the agenda items and not allow any distraction.
Avoid Distractions on the Meeting
I could go further on this topic, but at the end there is an iron rule for successful meetings: No devices!!!
If the participants start to check their devices, they will star losing track of the meeting by answering messages, emails, or any other action unrelated to the meeting.
If there is the need to check the phone, the participants should eave the meeting momentarily and join back later.
There are many other topics to discuss and get further on this broad topic like moderation methods, how to interact with people, the personality to show and how to project yourself as a moderator.
They are probably worth to mention but it is not my intention to provide you with a whole theory about how to polish your meetings.
Having the described backbone set, will help you to have a structure or guideline to follow in any meeting process and will boost the meetings’ performance.
They are some important rules to achieve a good meeting culture:
- Decline meetings with no goal and explain why you did it. Ask the questions at any moment in the preparation of a meeting. If there is no answers for those questions something will start to fail in the meeting.
- Ask the participants to review the goals and agenda so they can be prepared better for the meeting.
- Do not start with a new agenda topic if there is no written result about the current agenda item. (e.g. this point needs more info).
- Smalltalk at the beginning of every meeting. The power of smalltalk before meeting will help the people to start being focus on the meeting that is about to begin.
I do believe meetings can be optimized, but most of the times there are other factors floating around and hijacking the success of a meeting. And most of the times those factors belong to the whole system behind.
If there is not a solid communication system behind; that is the first issue that must be fixed. You will start having tedious meetings, chains of non-oriented meetings until the person with enough authority gets onboard to make the needed decision, missing people, not enough information to satisfy a topic, etc. The meeting problems are uncountable.
It is like having a nice and clean frontend when your backend drops oil everywhere.
So, better start to improve your communication system. Then optimize your meetings.