Talk less, listen more

Meetings. Does anyone ‘like’ them?

Well, I do. I have had some amazingly productive and informative ones over the years. Sometimes they’re held in offices, sometimes in dedicated meeting rooms, sometimes over a cuppa in the campus cafe, and occasionally over lunch off-site. But what makes a ‘good’ meeting? For me a ‘good’ meeting is:

  • Needed – sometimes emails or phone calls aren’t enough to gauge progress, cover what’s needed, etc.
  • Short – not too short that you end up needing another one to cover what you missed (see later) but not too long that you end up going off topic and wasting time.
  • Purpose – everyone present knows the meaning and reason for the meeting, and sticks to the agenda and gets on with it, in the time allocated.
  • Equal – no one dominates the discussion or agenda unnecessarily.
  • Prepared – Everyone present should be there, no unnecessary invitees, and everyone is prepared for it.
  • Closed – clearly defined actions, if they’re needed, on who does what from here, and by when. if further follow up is needed then this is agreed in advance and timescales set.

The common theme above is ‘necessary’. What gets in the way of a good / successful meeting, for me, is when the discussion or agenda or use of time or list of invitees or other aspects of the meeting are ‘unnecessary’. If the meeting sticks to the purpose, it those invited should be and need to be there, and that you are able to conclude business in the allotted time (without straying) then you’ve all worked well and efficiently together.

It’s not always possible to effect the changes needed to improve meetings, so here’s a few things I / you can do to get the process underway:

  • Listen – not only say less, but listen more to others and help pull thoughts, ideas, plans, etc. together to further the meeting. This is not always easy to do, especially if others dominate the time, but listening is often overlooked in order to have your voice or opinions heard.
  • Opinions – let others have their opinions, especially if they’re similar to your own. You don’t have to highlight that someone else has said what you were going to, it’s enough to know you think in a similar way. the key here is to build on it, not dwell on it.
  • Quiet – you can still be engaged and involved in the meeting / project without being vocal. But when you do say something others will take more notice.
    * Modified from Saying Less In Meetings
  • Record – arrange for someone to make a record of actions, timescales, etc. and have these sent to those present afterwards.
    * Modified from Tips for running effective meetings

What about you – do your meetings work? Do they finish on time with an agreed action plan for progress? If they do, then massive high-five. If not, what are you going to do about it?

As always, I like videos, and TED Talks usually has one for every occasion:

Image source: Richard Rutter (CC BY 2.0)