Whether you are in a one-on-one or group meeting or on a conference call, everyone has a role in conducting effective meetings! As the facilitator, it’s important to ensure everyone is included, whether you want to hear from them or not, or they want to contribute or not. Participation determines the quality of the decisions being made and the level of productivity. As a participant, your responsibility is to stay engaged in the conversation and ensure every person is heard, good decisions are being made, and the process stays on-track.
7 Factors to Improve the Quality of Your Meetings Now:
One: Start and End on Time
This requires everyone in their seats (or on the call) ready to begin 5 minutes before the actual start time. Turn off electronic gadgets, put phones on mute and minimize other distractions. If you are the facilitator or presenter, you need to be there even earlier to ensure the room is setup, presentation is ready to go, all electronics are working and all printed materials have been passed out (even if information was already sent to everyone).
Two: Come Prepared
Everyone is responsible to come prepared — that means read all documents, agendas and other materials before the meeting and bring them with you to the meeting. Be prepared with written questions and make sure everyone actively participates to get these questions answered. If you have conducted preliminary research, be sure it’s completed and information is in a handout for everyone to view prior to the meeting (NOTE: simple graphs with short narratives are easiest to readily understand).
Three: Take Turns
Make sure you hear from everyone! Unless each person contributes, ideas get missed, important nuances get overlooked, misunderstandings occur, and arguments can erupt. Team members will not voice their concerns if laughed at, ignored or interrupters are not managed. When you are on a conference call, make sure each person is called on by name. If they have nothing to contribute, have them simply say, “Pass.” Remember, conflicts should not be overlooked and people labelled as difficult to work with – they may have valid points no one wants to hear. (Reference, Do You Know How to De-escalate Conflict? http://wp.me/p2POui-10S)
This is the most important factor to improve your meetings now. Many people, particularly younger professionals, view listening like a computer taking in data, which they regurgitate back. However, listening requires active involvement — particularly, when they hear things they don’t want to know, don’t agree with or don’t believe in. Active listening has three components: 1) hearing what is said verbally, 2) hearing what is not said, and 3) being aware of non-verbal cues (e.g., attitude, tone, physical). It involves a back-and-forth dialogue that is on-point and moves the conversation forward (rehashing what has already been said doesn’t help resolve the concern). This creates new opportunities to resolve old issues and formulate new ideas for products and services. It’s a skill everyone needs to develop.
Five: State Your Point Upfront
Most attendees will stop listening when others are talking too long, sharing inappropriate gossip, repeating themselves, or using technical terms (aka jargon). Stay away from monologues or lengthy responses by starting with the point first, then provide any supporting information to reinforce the point presented.
Six: Ask Questions
Too often, we don’t ask questions to learn more about a comment or statement someone has offered. Instead, we believe we “get it” and then misuse the information. Or, we judge it as irrelevant without further investigation. Learn how to drill down and clarify by asking questions out of a commitment to resolve the issue or move the project forward. Stay away from using an interrogation modality – it doesn’t work and puts everyone on the defense.
Seven: Reach Alignment
Hoping and waiting for consensus is non-productive since too much time is spent wooing a person to agree with the majority, creating group think. Instead, alignment means you and the team take the best information available and make a decision. Then consider the following: Can everyone live with this decision? Is it workable and doable? If not, what needs to be added or changed so that everyone is on the same page moving forward? Then, stand firm and respond factually to the naysayers.
Using these 7 factors will improve the decisions being made, opportunities being pursued, and results being achieved! Active participation gives everyone the opportunity to voice their concerns, be heard, ask the right questions and make the best decisions!
©Jeannette Seibly, 2016
Jeannette Seibly has been a business advisor and executive coach for 24 years; along the way she’s guided the creation of three millionaires. She is laser sharp at identifying the leverage points that will take a business and its team to the next level of performance and success. Check out her website, http://SeibCo.com, or contact Jeannette for a free, confidential conversation at http://SeibCo.com/contact.