10 Ways to Create Attentive Meetings


Ever sat in a meeting checking your email? Ever attended a meeting and wondered why you were there? Ever been frustrated by a badly run meeting at your company? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone!

When did it become OK to be rude in meetings or to be on our devices rather than pay attention? If you want to engage your team members, board members or participants in your next meeting here are ten strategies to help people pay attention and get faster results from your meetings. 

  1. Publish the purpose of the meeting – in your meeting invitation explain the purpose in one sentence. Let attendees know what you will do and keep it action-oriented i.e. brainstorm, decide, determine next steps, finalize the project, debrief event. Be specific.
  2. Stop being rude – email is not more important than the meeting. Give participants a reason to pay attention and lead by example.
  3. Shorten meetings – instantly halve your meetings and see what happens. Stop wasting people’s time. If you host 60-minute meetings try 30 minutes, if you host 30 minutes try 15 minutes. People will thank you when you give them time back.
  4. Consider device free meetings – if you are brainstorming new ideas or handing a tough conversation ask people to put away devices to pay attention for short periods of time.
  5. Control side bar conversations, disruptive attendees and tangent conversations with his simple (and assertive) line ‘For the sake of time, let’s move on’ – keep the conversation moving.
  6. Cancel meetings – if you don’t have the decision maker or the information required to make a decision, cancel the meeting. If you don’t need to ask others to invest their minutes with you, give them back. People will appreciate you.
  7. Decline meetings – if you are unsure the purpose of the meeting or how you will add value to the meeting, say No. Yep, that’s right. No is a complete sentence. Decline the meeting. Be brave.
  8. Summarize actions before the meeting end – allocate owners and timeframes to actions and ask people to report back between meetings on progress. A meeting with no agreed outcomes is a waste of time.
  9. Listen with your eyes – show people you are listening to them by being involved in the conversation, asking relevant questions and probing for more answers. Use your body language to actively participate and pay attention.
  10. Read Death by Meeting – this brilliant book is one of the best I have ever read on this topic. It defines four styles of meetings and when to host them. Check it out.

 In a time of massive change, technology changing he pace we work and many organizations wanting to get more out of fewer resources, one of the best things you can do is eliminate unnecessary meetings and run more efficient meetings. If someone gives you the gift of their attention in your meeting, honor them and make it worthwhile.

Source: Neen James

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Neen James: Executive Strategist

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