5 Meeting Principles to Live By

What are the magic ingredients for a successful meeting? A meeting in which participants build relationships, exchange ideas, unearth insights, make decisions, and get the information they need to move work forward? We all know there’s no “magic” that comes without preparation and hard work. But there are five basic principles that underlie successful meetings.

Principle #1. Every voice matters

Different perspectives enrich a conversation, strengthen a team, and generally lead to better outcomes. Good meeting leaders establish a safe and open environment in which participants can voice their concerns. You don’t have to transform your entire organization’s meeting culture to make every voice count in your meetings.

What you can do:

Be respectful of people’s different communication styles and preferences. Use strategies that meet the needs of introverts and extroverts. Different ways of communicating information like text, charts, and audiovisual clips can appeal to different learning styles. The priority is to make information clear and accessible to everyone in the group.

Principle #2. Everyone should come prepared

Meeting preparation often starts with the meeting leader, but doesn’t end there. Team members also need to prepare for the meeting. As a meeting planner, you facilitate meeting preparation by creating a thoughtful agenda in advance of the meeting. But if you’re the only person who is ready for the conversation, you risk spending extra time during the meeting setting up the context, the conversation wandering aimlessly, and team members feeling lost, not needed, or that they’ve wasted their time.

What you can do:

  • Include meeting prework as part of the agenda that you share with participants ahead of time. (Prework is an assignment for meeting participants so they know exactly what to do prior to the meeting.) You can also influence others to prepare for meetings by asking for their help in the agenda creation process.

Principle #3. Start and end with intention

How you begin and end your meetings can have more impact on its success than you might think. People enter the room (physically and virtually) with other topics on their minds. They may not even remember exactly which meeting they are walking into given a full day of meetings. It’s critical to begin the meeting thoughtfully in order to support the transition into the meeting conversation. Similarly, the end of a meeting is often hurried with some people sneaking off to another meeting before the conversation has fully concluded. Ending the meeting with intention helps participants feel their time was well spent.

What you can do:

  • Start by reminding participants why you’re there and what you plan to accomplish. Ask participants to set aside distractions like cell phones and emails, and to engage in the meeting content.
  • End the meeting with a wrap-up session that reviews the tasks and decisions made during the meeting. This ensures that next steps and outcomes are clear, there is closure, and the group feels a sense of accomplishment.

Principle #4. Think of your meetings as a launching point

No matter how productive the conversation, if the meeting outcomes aren’t implemented, the meeting was, in some ways, still a waste. Next steps get left behind and decisions are forgotten, making it hard to continue the momentum. So why spend time clarifying follow up items if they are only going to be abandoned?

What you can do:

  • Record notes, ideas, learnings, decisions, and other information so it can be easily shared and accessible in the future. Send meeting notes within 24 hours of the meeting’s completion and be sure to include non-meeting stakeholders who should be informed.
  • Make sure someone is accountable for each action item so it gets completed. Transfer your tasks to your personal task system so those items don’t fall through the cracks or use a system like Meeteor that automatically puts your tasks from meetings onto your to-do list.

Principle #5. Create, iterate, then iterate your meeting process again

Take the time to develop a process that works for your team’s meetings. The time you spend upfront developing a system will pay off down the road. When you have a process in place, don’t let it grow stale; instead, continually reflect on and refine the process.

What you can do:

Conduct team review meetings every few months to review your current processes for meeting planning, facilitation, and follow-through.

Does your team practice any of these key principles? Which ones could you start implementing today? We’d love your feedback. Please comment below or tweet to @meeteorHQ. We look forward to continuing the conversation!

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