All too often meetings get in the way of doing our work. Use these 5 tips to make your meetings time while spent.
- Establish Operating Agreements
Purposes: Develop meeting operational norms, Create participatory buy in.
- Start and end on time
- Leave your title at the door.
- Participate throughout the session
- Use E.L.M.O. (Enough, let’s move on.)
- Minimize electronic distractions
- Use the Refrigerator
- Have fun!
- Ask Questions
Purpose: Elicit information to expand understanding.
- Use the journalistic questions: Who, What, When Where, and How.
- Avoid Why questions. Too often they put people on the defensive and frequently produce the answers, “I don’t know.” or “Because”
- Encourage Answers
Purpose: Engage participants in the discussion,
- Extroverts talk to think. Image – the microwave
- Introverts think before they talk. Image – the crock pot.
Give participants time to write out their answers before sharing them.
- Use the Refrigerator
Purpose: Have a place for off topic ideas to be remembered so that the group focus stays on the agreed upon agenda items.
- Ask people to write their off topic ideas and questions on post-its and place them on a refrigerator flip chart.
- Make sure to read and address the during breaks and/or at the end of the day. If time does not allow this during the session, identify a person to follow up each post after the session and report back to the individual or group.
- Utilize Plus – Delta
Purpose: Provide a tool to quickly and easily gather meeting feedback.
- Ask the group the following questions and record their answers on the flip. “
- “What went well during this session?”
- “What shall we change the next time?”
I was facilitating a public input meeting and a lady in the front row kept bringing up off topic statements and questions. It wasn’t until I asked her to write her ideas and questions on post its, put them on the parking lot flip and promised we would address them before the meeting was over, that she was willing to participate in the discussion of the subject at hand.
In a business meeting a man frequently interrupted the person who was speaking at that time. When I asked him for the reason he was interrupting, he said,” I’m afraid I’m going to forget the point I want to make.” I asked him to write his idea down on a post it, put it on the parking lot flip and promised we would address it before the meeting was over.
I kept my promise. Before we closed the meeting we reviewed the items in the parking lot. We handled the ones that could be addressed in the time we had left; assigned the ideas and questions to the appropriate people in the room to research, follow up and report back at the next meeting. Keeping my promise to give the items on the post its the attention that was needed was very important, not only for that meeting. It assured participants that off topic ideas at future meetings will be well received and addressed. This freed people up to give their full attention to the items on the agenda because they had seen that off topic ideas are welcome, treated with respect and addressed.
Over the years I have refined the process. The biggest change came after I had assessed a candidate for certification. He used a refrigerator instead of a parking lot because he wanted to keep the ideas fresh.
I asked myself where do I want my group’s ideas—baking in the sun in the back forty somewhere or in the refrigerator staying fresh and crisp? I never used a parking lot again!