Not many people are fans of meetings. However, it is a very necessary part of every business or organization that nobody just can’t seem to avoid. In this episode, Carolyn Rivera takes us out of this frustration by sharing the ways you can make the most out of meetings. Looking at it from both sides, she talks about what it is like for those on the side of the person conducting the meeting and those of the people participating. Meetings are not only time-consuming but also inefficient when not done right. Carolyn makes it more valuable for all participants by breaking down the different types of meetings and how to properly conduct them.
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How To Make The Most Out Of Meetings And Conduct Them The Right Way
I was working with a client and we were talking about meetings. Every day, we’re all involved in so many different kinds of meetings. The one thing that struck me was that my client was dissatisfied with the meetings that he attends. He is constantly frustrated because he doesn’t see the value in the meetings. I thought I would talk about how to make the most out of meetings, looking at it from both sides. Looking at it from the side of the person conducting the meeting, as well as the side of the people participating in the meeting. That was something I immediately thought of when I was talking to my client. Some of the issues that cause meetings to be ineffective are how they’re set up. Think about the last meeting that you attended. From your perspective, was it effective? If yes, think about what made it effective. If not, think about why not. What was missing? This is the first step in beginning to think about and create a valuable meeting for everyone.
Another issue that we have with meetings is they consume your entire day. When you think about it, how much time are you spending on meetings? You’re probably going to say a lot. Think about the value that they provide. There’s a cost associated with that. The one thing that most people don’t quantify is that opportunity cost for the time spent in meetings. Every time that a meeting is held, it costs the company. If you’re in your own business, it costs you money. Everyone who attends a meeting, let’s say it’s a one-hour meeting, is using or reallocating those salary dollars for that meeting. When they’re in the meeting, they’re not doing anything else.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a meeting with ten people, all at different levels. How much do you think that meeting costs? Let’s break it down. Let’s say that two people out of the ten are paid $100 an hour, two people are paid $75 an hour, four people are paid $50 an hour and another two people are paid $25 an hour. You have people at all different levels within meetings. If you calculate what that costs, two people at $100 are $200. Two people at $75 are $150. Four people at $50 are $200 and two people at $25 are $50. If you add that all up, that one-hour meeting costs $600. You’re paying the salaries of those people to attend the meeting.People sometimes forget that planning the agenda is so critical to the success of the meeting. Click To Tweet
If you’re a lawyer or accountant, you typically even get more than that. I’m giving you easy numbers here to make my point. As the people who you invite to these meetings, as their level increases, the dollar amount increases as well. As you think about it that way, is that the best way to spend $600? It could be, depending on the outcomes of the meeting. You have to determine the purpose of the meeting and if you gain from that what you intended to gain. There are all different types of meetings that we’re going to talk about. One of the key things to think about is the purpose and expected outcomes of the meeting. When I was talking with my client, he mentioned that, from his perspective, the meetings weren’t valuable. It could be so many different things. Maybe he didn’t understand the purpose and was expecting something different. I’m sure you’ve gone to a meeting or a meeting was on your calendar and you have no idea what you were supposed to do ahead of time or if there was pre-work or what the total outcome of the meeting was, to begin with. Maybe my client didn’t understand what was to be discussed in the meeting because he wasn’t up-to-date on a project.
Maybe the meeting started with a topic and veered off course quickly to a different topic so nothing was accomplished. We have all been through meetings where someone brings up something and the entire meeting changes and the agenda is lost. Most of that is due to whoever’s running the meeting didn’t keep the meeting on track. The outcomes that were expected, we didn’t get to. Maybe it’s the run-on meetings. Have you ever been to those meetings that go on and on forever where nothing is decided? That happens to us. People sometimes forget that planning the agenda is so critical to the success of the meeting. Some say that you should spend more time planning the meeting than having the meeting itself. There are so many different scenarios that can cause a meeting to feel like a waste of time. We’re going to break it down and discuss the different types of meetings and how to make them valuable for all participants.
The first thing to consider when thinking about meetings is asking yourself two questions, “What’s the purpose of the meeting? Do we need a meeting to succeed?” Let’s start with its purpose. You first have to consider what you are trying to accomplish by having the meeting, “What is the expected outcome?” Once you decide that, you must think if there are other people that you need to get in the room for the expected outcome that you’re looking for. Planning for a meeting is critical. It’s at that time when you’re answering all of those questions. Let’s say that you decide that a meeting is necessary in order to achieve that expected outcome that you’re looking for. You have to consider who needs to be present for the meeting to be successful. Are there other departments? Are there certain people who are going to be critical to success?
If you are in your own business, it’s the same thing. Why are you calling a meeting and who needs to be there? Maybe it’s an outside vendor, an accountant or a lawyer. Whatever the case is, you have to determine who the proper people are? What is their function and how they are going to contribute to the success of the meeting? Those are the things that you must work through in the planning steps. Having the right people at the meeting is so important. Many times, I’m working with people and they forget to include other people and it causes them to be upset. They feel like they were left out. “Why wasn’t I included in this meeting when it’s my department? Why wasn’t I included in this meeting when I’m one of the decision-makers?”
Attendance in a meeting is one of the first things that you’ve got to get right. You can get people upset if you don’t get it right. We already said that meetings are expensive. It doesn’t mean that you have to invite people who don’t need to be there for one reason or another. It’s going to cost you money. Choosing the right participants is something that I can’t stress enough. Let’s assume that you have the right people. Let’s talk about the types of meetings to plan for. There are a couple of different reasons to pull people together for a meeting. We’ll call the first one an update meeting. This could be for your team to get an update on things that they’re working on. This could be for a specific project where you’re getting different people from different departments who have specific tasks that link together to one project.
The primary reason for an update meeting to happen is to get people together to talk about the specific tasks, maybe to reprioritize items or make decisions on a specific topic within that project or update. It could even be to solve problems that come up. You’re getting updates and making decisions or having a subset of things that come out of the meeting. You’re getting all the people involved on the same page. The update meeting, if run the right way, can be very effective. What happens is the team leader would go around the room and get the update on the project, maybe the tasks or milestones from each member who is participating. They would share what they accomplished that week or over the last two weeks, depending on how frequently you have these meetings and if there are any issues that need to be discussed.When people are involved, they retain more information. Click To Tweet
Sometimes there are decisions that need to be made based on some roadblocks that people are faced with as they’re going down the path of achieving specific milestones. Sometimes those decisions that they’re faced with, maybe can’t be gone through at that specific meeting because you don’t have time. You’re not preparing for all these different things that might come up. The key point for an update meeting is that everyone is engaged and paying attention to all of the team members. One of the issues that arise with update meetings is frequency. Sometimes there are way too many update meetings and therefore, people begin to tune out. They no longer see the value of that meeting. They may not even be paying attention to any of the other updates. They’re not getting the full effect or the project update itself. You’ve got to look at the frequency and ensure that it’s right. Don’t make it too often because it’s going to lose its value. If it’s not often enough, people feel like they don’t know what’s going on.
One way to enhance an update meeting is to keep it focused. Use the same outline for each meeting. Share a template of what each participant should be ready to share with the group. This way, they know exactly what they need to present and what they’re supposed to provide for each and every meeting and it doesn’t change. You’ve got to stay on time. Keep notes. People can always look through the notes if they’ve missed something. We’ve all been through those meetings where it was supposed to be for an hour and you’re two hours in and you haven’t gotten through half the agenda. Those are the killers. They shouldn’t happen, especially with update meetings. You can so easily keep it focused. Keep a time limit. You can give each team member a time limit so they know how much time they have to share their update. The last thing to consider with update meetings is to make sure all participants know how much time they have and how much detail you want them to go through. Some people have a very detailed approach to giving an update and others don’t give enough details. That’s why the template and the structure for that meeting are important.
The next type is information sharing. The purpose of this type of meeting could be to either train a group on something new or share information with the group that you want to change, maybe the way they view something. Usually, in larger settings, you’re sharing information like a state of the business, a new product with a team or a new process that you want people to follow. The purpose is to give information to the participants. In smaller settings, you may have a training session or a workshop where you’re sharing new information with a much smaller group. One of the biggest issues with this type of meeting is that typically, the presenter or the host of the meeting does all the talking. They put together a slide show and handouts that they’ve created and it’s from their point of view only. Many times, they don’t consider what the participants need to understand this new information.
If you want to get good at conducting an informational meeting, you’ve got to see things from the other side. You’ve got to get people engaged. People learn things in different ways. They learn things when they participate. How do you get people to participate? It has to be engaging and fun. It has to grab their attention. Sometimes the information that you’re sharing might not be super exciting. I’ve presented topics on so many different occasions on compliance or something that is not that much fun. The key is to find ways to make it exciting and reach the people that you’re trying to reach. You’ve got to get people involved. When they’re involved, they retain more information. When people don’t understand something, they feel bad.
If you’re using terms that they don’t understand or you’re not giving enough time for a specific topic, people are going to feel like, “Everyone else gets this, but I don’t get this.” They might feel stupid and think that everyone else understands what’s going on. “Everyone understands it but me.” They’re not going to ask a question because they don’t want to sound stupid. You’ve got to begin to think of things from a different angle. People don’t like to give everyone a full story sometimes. People think that information sharing is diluting their power. Sometimes presenters hold on to information because they feel powerful. They don’t like to give everyone the full story. They give just enough because they have to be the smartest one in the room. They have to be the one with all the information. In those scenarios, people still leave feeling bad because they don’t fully understand what’s going on.
People digest information in different ways. When you’re sharing information with a group of people and you’re looking to get everyone engaged, you must think about the best way to present the information. You must think about how different people digest information and how difficult the topic is because that might determine how you present it. Those are all the things that you have to plan ahead of time. You’re planning for this type of meeting and the most important thing to consider is who your audience is. Plan it around your audience and the difficulty of the topic. Here’s another reason to have a meeting. Let’s assume we’ve finished the information meeting. You’ve looked at it from the audience’s point of view. You’re sharing everything that they need to know. You’re positioning it in a way where they can digest it.Most business meetings are for the purpose of making a decision. Click To Tweet
Another type of meeting to have is a meeting where you make a decision. There are so many different scenarios for this. Everything is based on the decision that has to be made. Some decisions are huge and some are trivial but either way, it’s important to include the right people in the meeting. Most business meetings are for the purpose of making a decision. What happens at a decision-making meeting? You could be collecting data from others or sharing information. You could be brainstorming ideas, ranking different options or evaluating different options that are available. All these things are taken into account when you’re making a decision. Sometimes the participants are all from the same team. Maybe they are from across different functions that you have people from all different departments in attendance.
One of the critical things is to have the right people in the room. It’s especially in decision-making because the people in this meeting, in particular, have to have the authority to make decisions. If they’re not the decision-makers, you might have wasted the time. Sometimes when you invite one person to the meeting, they can attend. They bring somebody else to the meeting, but that person is not the decision-maker. They have not been given that authority. If you need the decision-maker at that meeting, you’ve wasted everybody’s time. It is critical to ensure that you have the right people at a decision-making meeting. Understand the types of decisions that need to be made ahead of time. Let all the participants know what those are.
Although we would love to live in a world without any problems or issues, unfortunately, that is not the case. When you’re in business, things don’t always happen the way you hope. You need to be able to solve problems. Another reason to have a meeting is to solve problems or issues that may come up. Problem-solving meetings can be used where you identify potential problems and begin to work through some solutions or you work through a very specific problem that you’re faced with now. For example, you could bring people together to discuss the potential problems that a company, a department or a business may have just in case those problems come up. Sometimes in those scenarios, what you use is called a SWOT analysis. You identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
This type of meeting is focused on these potential issues. They could be known issues that require a discussion or a plan. For the problem that exists now that you’re working to solve, you need the right people in the room. You need the people who have identified the problem and the people who are experiencing the problem. You want to talk through all the different things that are happening now. You want to collect all that necessary information in order to make a proper decision. Participants need to know and understand what’s expected, what things they need to be prepared for at this meeting. Maybe you’re looking to come to a decision to solve the problem right then and there or you’re expecting to go back and be able to review all the information and come back at another time to make the final decision. Whatever the case is, people need to know.
The ultimate goal of a problem-solving meeting is to come up with a solution that fixed an existing problem or put something in place, a process that prevents the potential for a problem to come about. Sometimes we bring together a big group of people to solve a problem when you just need one person to do something different. In this case, a meeting is not necessary. Have the person do what they need to do. Go ahead and tell them. You don’t need seventeen people around a table to shine the light on the problem of this one individual. They can do it. Sometimes people don’t want to have that conversation with somebody so they use a meeting to make it happen, to make the point. That’s why some meetings are ineffective.
The best strategy for a problem-solving meeting is to have it before the problem exists. We’re talking about planning. Plan for the problem and be ready with a solution when it does come about. Many times we’re reactive. We come together to solve a problem after it has happened. That’s not going to go away. You’ve got to do that as well. All that says is we might have missed things in the planning process. Maybe you didn’t think of all the potential issues. It’s not the best approach, but one that happens all the time because we live in this quick-paced environment. Most of the time because we’re implementing things so quickly, we don’t have time to spend thinking about all the potential problems. That’s okay because it’s not going to go away.Don’t judge the ideas. Collect as many ideas as possible before you begin to narrow the list. Click To Tweet
The other thing to consider is ensuring that you’re solving for the root cause of the problem, not a symptom. When you go to the doctor, he or she diagnoses a problem that you have. What they do is find what is causing the problem, not just working on the symptom. For example, you’ve got a sore throat. You take a throat lozenge to eliminate the pain of the sore throat. You haven’t fixed the problem. You’ve got to find out what is causing the sore throat. Maybe you have strep throat. The doctor will give you an antibiotic to eliminate the strep. You may still need to continue to take those throat lozenges for pain. It’s the same thing with problems at work, in your business and at home. Find out what’s causing the problem and fix that. When you only fix the symptom, the problem doesn’t go away. It simply gets masked for a period of time. Sometimes it rears its ugly head yet again. You want to eliminate that. Use the right tools. Collect the right data. Solve the problem the first time. Get to the root cause because then you’ve solved the true problem and it goes away. There are a few types of meetings left to discuss.
Another reason to have a meeting is to use it as a think tank. It’s to innovate, to think about all the possibilities that are linked to your company, business, life and whatever it is that you’re having the meeting for. Innovation is all about thinking outside the box. Get out of the here and now and think about possibilities. These meetings are creative meetings. They’re used a lot of times to come up with an advertising campaign or to develop a new product or service. The most effective approach is brainstorming where no idea is a bad idea. No one can be shut down because of the idea they bring up. Typically, people build off of the ideas of others. The key is understanding what the outcome of the meeting is. In any meeting that you have, the outcome of the meeting is critical. In innovation, are you leaving with a new process because you brainstormed ways to do something different? Are you walking out with a new campaign, a new product or a new approach to an existing problem? The goal must be clear.
The most difficult thing about conducting an innovation meeting is understanding and setting the ground rules. It’s all about the ground rules around brainstorming effectively, using the rules of brainstorming where no idea is a bad one. Don’t judge the ideas. Collect as many ideas as possible before you begin to narrow the list. Someone typically comes up with an idea. Other people liked the idea but they add their little twists, building off the first idea and then you’re getting the benefit of everyone’s opinion. Innovation meetings are very powerful if done the right way where everyone feels like they created this innovation together. In fact, they did. They all took part in it. It can help to push and move things forward by using this technique. The key is don’t let people tear an idea down.
I’ve been at meetings where somebody comes up with an idea and somebody across the room says, “We did that before. It’s never going to work.” That’s how you shut down creativity and brainstorming right away. The person who thought of the idea and got shut down is not going to feel comfortable to bring up another idea. They’re going to feel like, “They shut down my first idea. They’re going to shut down my second idea.” Those are the things that you must consider when you’re thinking about an innovation-type meeting.
The last meeting is the one that typically is the forgotten one or placed on the back burner. It’s a meeting specifically for team building. More and more, it’s becoming necessary to set aside time to have these team-building meetings. The reason is that we live in this dispersed environment where you don’t always get to work together in the same office in the same environment. You might not even meet a lot of the people who are on your team face to face. The more you do, however, the better the relationships are and the more value that you can provide together. Team building is all about building a collaborative working environment, creating a culture of inclusion. The companies that focus on their people see their results climb. When people are happy, customers are happy.
There are a couple of things to consider when you’re having a team-building meeting. It must be set up the right way. Understand exactly what the team needs to be more effective. You have to know the team. Sometimes teams have conflicts. There are conflicts between certain team members. You can’t just sweep those under the rug. You must acknowledge that they exist and work on ways to overcome those conflicts. Team building meetings that are focused on those things can connect team members more closely, open the lines of communication and create a better working environment. The key is setting it up and conducting it the right way, having the right activities that bring the team together. Having the ability to discuss the things that aren’t working well now and, as a team, coming together to find the solutions to those challenges. Many times, it’s important to have each team member share what they do so that all the other team members figure out how they link together and fit into the larger picture.If you’re truly trying to change the culture, you’ve got to put a value on the people. Click To Tweet
Team building itself is important. Set aside time. Make sure it happens. If you’re truly trying to change the culture, you’ve got to put a value on the people. With people, there is no culture. Without them, there’s nothing. We spend so much time, money and effort in meetings that we should probably figure out how to get it right. Many clients I work with are not satisfied with the meetings they attend. Many of them feel like they spend way too much time in meetings and the meetings are not yielding the outcomes that are expected. There are different reasons for that. Some of those ineffective meetings are because people are not planning for those meetings. People don’t understand why they’re going to the meetings, what the expected outcomes are. Step one is understanding what the purpose of the meeting is. What do you want to walk away from the meeting with? That question must be answered.
We talked first about an update meeting where you’re getting updates from people linked to their goals and objectives or to a specific project that they’re working on. We talked about information sharing where you’re giving people information on something new like a new product or service, giving them something new to think about, maybe within their own team. We talked about decision-making where you want to walk away with a decision and having the right people who are the decision-makers in the room is critical, as well as having enough information to be able to make that decision. We talked about problem-solving meetings. The best approach is to think of the potential problems before they happen. Many times, we pull people together to solve a problem that we learned about. Those things will not go away.
Next, we talked about the power of innovation, bringing people into this creative process where they can share their ideas in a safe environment. The rule is that no idea is a bad one. Setting that environment up for that creative process is critical. Make sure you don’t have those naysayers in the room who are going to shoot down those ideas because that’s going to stop the creativity right away. Lastly, we talked about conducting a team-building meeting. The purpose is getting to work through any conflicts that exist with the team, understand the weaknesses that the team has, look for creative ways to be more collaborative and build a collaborative culture. Meetings are very important when they’re viewed by all participants as valuable. We’re looking for true value.
We talked about meetings. If you want to read any of my past shows, there are few places where you can do that. My shows are also on iHeartRadio, Spotify and iTunes. Wherever you find your podcasts, type in The Carolyn Rivera Show and you can listen from there. Convenience is the key. Helping you achieve more than you ever thought possible is my specialty. Believe, commit, achieve. That’s the secret sauce you’re looking for.