Business Expert Solutions - Gordon Sheppard

How Can I Run Better Meetings?

Have you ever been in a bad meeting? Have you ever said “that meeting should have been an email! Are you ready to learn how to run a better meeting?

Unproductive meetings are bad for business. Sometimes people are late, or they talk too much, or there is no agenda. The list of ways to waste time and money goes on and on.

But there is a better way! Because if you can apply what you learn from this article to your next meeting, then it could be more productive and profitable.

10 Steps For Running A Better Meeting

  1. Understand yourself
  2. Understand your team
  3. Measure the actual cost of your meetings
  4. Learn how to become a better meeting facilitator
  5. Connect every meeting to your organization strategy
  6. Build a blockbuster meeting AGENDA
  7. Meet in the right space
  8. Read popular books about how to run better meetings
  9. Learn how to follow-up FAST and make people accountable
  10. Take action and get inspired!

These 10 steps are from Gordon Sheppard’s book titled the ‘Meeting Leadership Solution.’ This approach has help thousands of leaders around the world to improve their meetings.

So read on and learn a couple of techniques that you can apply in your next meeting to make it more productive and profitable!

The Effective Meetings Professional Development Workshop

For leaders who want to improve the overall productivity, and profitability of their meetings.

Step 1: Understand Yourself

Great meetings start with you.

Whether you are the leader or the follower, you have to be aware of how you act during meetings.

Are you too loud? Do you inspire people? Are you looking for a fight?

To help you become more self-aware, here are three questions you can answer.

  1. How do I act during a meeting?
  2. How do I want to act during a meeting?
  3. How am I going to get there?
I recommend that you write your answers on a stickie note and stick it on your desk. Then, before you go to your next meeting, take a quick look at the note. It will remind you about what you need to do to make the meeting more productive.
 
If you’re looking for more help about how to become self-aware then you may want to:
 
"If you're chairing a meeting, your goal is to facilitate conversation. Your goal is not to put your thoughts forward to stifle the conversation, but to really make it ongoing."

Step 2: Understand Your Team

If you want to have more effective meetings, then you have to understand the people in your meetings and how they are acting.

To get started, it is worth noting where your team is at now, and how much better you would like them to become in the future.

So, on a scale from 1-10, how would you rate your current meeting team?

Use the meeting behaviors listed in this table to help you decide.

1 - 4 5 - 89 - 10
Low TrustBasic TrustHigh Level of Trust
Open ConflictOrderlyHealthy Conflicts
No AgendaAgendaAction Plan
People Are LateEverybody Is NiceEverybody Contributes
Poor ResultsAverage ResultsOutstanding Results

Write down the rating out of ten for your current meeting team:

______ / 10

Write down the future rating that you want to give your meeting team: 

______ / 10

Now that you understand where you are and want to go, here are a few practical suggestions that will help you make immediate improvements with your meeting team.

Know Who Is In The Room

There are many different types of people in every meeting, including:

  • Introverts
  • Extroverts
  • Talkers
  • Listeners
  • Braggers etc.

Once you understand the different styles that people bring in to a meeting, then you can bring out the best in each person.

Learn How To Celebrate A Win

Most meeting teams focus on fixing problems, but they don’t take the time to celebrate when they get a win.

Here are a few suggestions about how you can celebrate with your team.

  • Learn how to look each other in the eye and honestly say ‘thank-you’
  • Send a hand-written thank-you note to each team member
  • Broadcast your accomplishments in the company newsletter

Of course, there are many ways to celebrate, so why not ask your team what they’d like to do at your next meeting.

Another great way to stop wasting time and money on meetings is to actually measure the cost.

"Even when I was walking in the office today, I stopped before I went into the room and I just took a breath and then I entered into the room confidently. And I know that sounds sort of silly, but it supercharges the moment. It allows you to set the pace for what the conversation will be, what your first impression is, and people feed on that confidence."

Step 3: Measure The Actual Cost Of Your Meetings

With the ridiculous amount of time that we all spend in meetings why don’t we stop and measure the actual cost of them?

In fact, according to BusinessInsider.com, unproductive meetings cost more than 37 billion dollars every year in the United States alone!

If we extrapolate that impact for the global economy it’s possible to say that more than $1 trillion dollars are being wasted on bad meetings each year.

In a $100 trillion dollar global economy, are we giving up 1% to bad meetings, an activity that we all have the ability to change?

If you want to stop wasting time and money, then start by measuring the actual cost of your meetings with this formula.

Meeting Cost Formula

  • + Hourly Hourly Wages
  • + Room Cost
  • + Refreshments

Total Meeting Cost Per Hour

Example: Weekly Staff Meeting – 1 Hour Meeting

  • + 4 People @ $50/hr = $200
  • + Room Cost = $75
  • + Lunch = $25

Total Meeting Cost For 1 Hour = $300

Once you understand your total meeting cost per hour, then multiply that amount times the number of meetings per year.

Example: Weekly Staff Meeting – 50 Meetings Per Year

$300 x 50 = $15,000 per year!

Once you understand how much you’re actually spending on meetings then you’ll never waste a single second again!

Step 4: Become A Better Meeting Facilitator

Does your current facilitator make your gatherings productive, fun and engaging?

Or do they arrive late, pick favourites, and laugh at their own jokes?

Great meetings need great facilitators.

With that in mind, let’s start by giving your current facilitator a rating out of ten, based on the information in this table.

1 - 4 5 - 89 - 10
Can't Be TrustedTrustworthyThey Have Your Back
UnpreparedAdequately PreparedWell Prepared
Can't Keep On TrackKeeps On TimeUses Time Effectively
Avoids ConflictManages ConflictBuilds Healthy Conflict
Poor ResultsAverage ResultsOutstanding Results

Write down the rating out of ten for your current meeting facilitator:

______ / 10

Write down the future rating that you want to give your meeting facilitator: 

______ / 10

Now that you have a basic understanding of your current meeting facilitator’s strengths and weaknesses, and you know the rating that you would like them to have, here are some practical suggestions to help them improve.

Learn How To Fight

Healthy disagreements are an important part of every meeting. But to make them productive, your meeting facilitator has to know how to manage the people who disagree. Here are a few ‘ground rules’ that your meeting facilitator can put into action at your next meeting.

Ground Rule #1 – One person speaks at a time

When people are mad they often interrupt and talk over the other person they disagree with. So the meeting facilitator should enforce ground rule #1 to make sure that each person can hear and understand what the other person is saying.

Ground Rule #2 – Make it about the issue, not about the person

Disagreements can get personal. So the meeting facilitator can remind people to keep the discussion on topic, and not allow personal attacks to get started.

Of course these are just a couple of ground rules to get you started, and your team may want to have a discussion about what you want the other meeting ground rules to be.

Listen Deeply

Great facilitators really know how to listen well, and make people feel like they are being heard.

Repetition is a great technique that a facilitator can use to demonstrate that they are listening.

The way this works is to listen to what someone in a meeting says, and then summarize it and repeat it back.

For example, let’s say someone in a meeting said “I want to explore new options for how we do our marketing, so we can increase sales and hit our annual target.”

To show that they were listening the meeting facilitator could then say “I’m glad to hear that you’re trying to figure out how to hit our annual sales target. Let’s get some suggestions from the team.”

There are many other listening techniques, and one great resource for this can be found in the ‘Meeting Leadership Solution‘ book (available on Amazon).

Step 5: Connect Your Meetings To Your Strategy

Because the pace of business moves so quickly, you have to make every meeting in your organization count. Linking your organization strategy to all of your meetings is a great way to do this.

Of course, every strategy should answer these three questions.

  1. Where are we today?
  2. Where do we want to go?
  3. How are we going to get there?

It is likely that your organization has the answers to these questions written down in a strategic plan. But many people don’t even know that the strategic plan exists, which creates a wonderful opportunity.

Because, at your next meeting, you can actually take a few minutes to read part of the strategic plan out loud, so that your team can become familiar with it.

For example, you could say the vision statement for your organization out loud at the beginning of your meeting. Then you could have your regular meeting. Then, at the end of the meeting you could ask:

“Did our meeting move our vision forward?”

If it did, then it was a great meeting.

But if it didn’t, then you have to question if the meeting was worthwhile.

Connecting every meeting to your strategic plan is a powerful approach. It will energize your team, and help you to make sure that you don’t waste any more time in meetings!

The Effective Meetings Professional Development Workshop

Improve your meetings and overall communication ability by booking this workshop for your team.

Step 6: Build A Blockbuster Meeting AGENDA 

Do your meetings have an agenda? Does anybody read it? What would happen if your meeting team was excited about the agenda?

Part of my inspiration for this comes from watching my favourite movies, like Rocky and The Godfather.

Because every great Hollywood blockbuster movie starts with a great script, which means that every great meeting starts with a great agenda!

To help you improve your meeting agendas I’m going to teach you how to use the word AGENDA itself as a handy acronym.

  • Attention Grabber
  • Great Goals
  • Excitement
  • Navigation Tools
  • Decide Now
  • Accountability Check-In

Step 7: Meet In The Right Space 

Where you meet is as important as what you’re meeting about.

It doesn’t matter if it’s online or in-person, you have to take the time to create a welcoming environment where your team can perform at its best.

In-Person

Of course you have to refer to your company covid policy before any in-person meeting these days. Once you understand the right workplace protocols, then you answer more practical questions like:

  • Is the room too hot? Too cold?
  • Do we need a projector and screen?
  • Is the internet working?

You may also want to consider:

  • Should some people be seated apart from each other?
  • Who will take notes?
  • Should we post inspiring statements or our strategy on the walls?

Online

Online meetings are here to stay, and here’s a few ways to make them better.

  • Practice in advance – so you know all the technical details are taken care of
  • Be aware of how you look on camera – so that you can give the right impression
  • Look into the camera frequently and make eye contact – so that people really know that you are engaged

Step 8: Read About How To Run Better Meetings 

Here’s a list of insightful books that will help you improve your meetings.

Death By Meeting – by Patrick M. Lencioni

“A leadership fable…about solving the most painful problem in business”

The Facilitator’s Fieldbook – by Tom Justice and David Jamieson

“Loaded with procedures, checklists, guidelines, samples, and templates, The Facilitator’s Fieldbook covers all the key areas of successful team management, including establishing ground rules, planning meetings and agendas, brainstorming, resolving conflict, making decisions, and helping groups optimize their time.”

Traction – by Gino Wickman

“In Traction, you’ll learn the secrets of strengthening the six key components of your business. You’ll discover simple yet powerful ways to run your company that will give you and your leadership team more focus, more growth, and more enjoyment. Successful companies are applying Traction every day to run profitable, frustration-free businesses—and you can too.”

Fierce Conversations – by Susan Scott

“The master teacher of positive change through powerful communication, Susan Scott, wants her readers to succeed. To do that, she explains, one must transform everyday conversations, employing effective ways to get the message across.”

The Meeting Leadership Solution – by Gordon Sheppard

The 10 steps that you are learning in this article come from the Meeting Leadership Solution book.

“Unproductive meetings are bad for business. The Meeting Leadership Solution delivers a proven 10-step system that professionals can learn quickly, so they can take action to make their meetings more productive and profitable.”

Step 9: Follow Up FAST And Create Accountability 

Effective follow-up after a meeting is crucial, especially when it comes to keeping your meeting team accountable.

But most of the time there is little to no follow up after a meeting. Or the only thing that is sent out is a summarizing email, that most people don’t even bother to read.

One way to get results when you follow-up after a meeting is to use the word FAST in this way.

  • Feedback loop
  • Astonish each other
  • Standardize your follow-up process
  • Track progress

Step 10: Take Action And Get Inspired! 

In the first nine steps you learned practical things that you can do to improve the productivity of your meetings.

Now it’s time to take action.

  • Build your own self-awareness so you can be more effective meetings
  • In your next meeting try just one thing from the list above
  • Book the ‘Effective Meetings For Professionals Workshop’ for your team so you can go deeper and learn these techniques together

Find Your ‘Why’

Before you can improve your meetings you need to figure out ‘why’ you should even try, because if your motivation isn’t strong then nothing will change.

Here’s a few suggestions to help you discover your ‘why’.

  • Your company is losing money, and you need to communicate more effectively right now
  • You hate wasting time
  • Useless meetings are making your best people quit

Get Inspired

I have helped thousands of leaders how to have more effective meetings. One of my favorite questions that I make sure to ask in every workshop that I teach is:

What inspires you?

The responses are always amazing. Because people tell incredible stories about their parents, kids, mentors, teachers, colleagues, caring for the environment and the list goes on and on.

I also guarantee that you and everyone in your current meetings have an inspiring story to tell.

So why not take a moment to stop complaining about ‘people being late for the meetings’ or  complaining about the projector not working – and instead, go around the table and find out what inspires each person.

You will be amazed. You will also have made a big investment in building trust and rapport, which will ultimately improve your meetings in the future.

The Effective Meetings Professional Development Workshop

For leaders who want to improve the overall productivity, and profitability of their meetings.
Picture of Gordon Sheppard

Gordon Sheppard

Gordon Sheppard is an Organization Consultant, Leadership Coach, Facilitator, Online Training Expert, Author, and Podcaster. He helps business leaders get the information, advice and inspiration they need to be successful. He is also the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc.

Contact Gordon

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