4 Power Tips that Transform Staff Meetings into Dynamic Conversations

What do you do when feedback tells you that staff meetings are monotonous, mechanical, and non-productive? What do you have in your toolbox that will liven meetings up and create an experience participants embrace and value?

Here are four tips you can try to make your next staff meeting something worth talking about:

1.  Focus the Meeting

“People are truly motivated by one or two important items at a time. Any more will overwhelm” Jack Shaw.

Even with updates from all areas, you can narrow the focus of the meeting.  If slides are necessary, limit presenters to one slide with only a few bullet points.  If very little has transpired in an area recently, eliminate the slide altogether for that meeting.

Make every meeting a production that includes the usual tools: agendas, ground-rules, and action items. Each tool should control and focus, or the meeting will lose coherence. Too often, slide presentations and web meetings surrender to side discussions, poor attention spans, or faulty equipment. As long as anyone can mute the speaker literally or figuratively, the meeting is doomed.

If you call the meeting, it is your job to control it like a well-run production: keep things centered and focused.

2.  Involve with Engaging Questions

“Come ready to discuss questions that don’t have easy, right/wrong, yes/no answers, and that ask for positive rather than negative or critical responses” Tony Golsby-Smith.

Questions asked conversationally organize meetings with natural flow and considerable spontaneity. Conversations are lively, interesting, and engaging.

Robust staff meeting conversations, moderated by a qualified facilitator, explores issues, solutions, and ways forward. They allow the group to expand beyond an otherwise tedious list of agenda items in favor of a dialogue that ultimately becomes more democratic and less hierarchical. According to Facilitate.com, the goal is “to set up and guide an interesting conversation that a good majority of participants will get a lot out of, albeit something different for each.”

3.  Focus on the Positive.

Trust is a big issue with all meetings, but particularly with staff meetings.  People tend to know one another better, and neither clients nor upper management are likely to be in attendance, so some people will allow themselves to be negative and unprofessional.  Managers may feel that this is a good forum to allow people to “vent,” but negativity begets negativity, and meetings may soon spin out of control.

As Tony Golsby-Smith of Harvard Business Reviewsays, “nobody addresses the real issues; they nit-pick and criticize instead.  The net effect:  everyone’s imagination is suffocated, and they lose sight of the big picture.  When that happens, organizations run the risk of failure.”  If participants become negative, express understanding (without agreeing), model the boundaries of professional conversation, and gently guide others away from negativity.

4.  Vary the moment.

People do not engage with chalk-and-talk presentations. They expect collaboration, but they press for confrontation. It is your job to keep things varied and inviting, and this takes work and planning.

You might assign members to contribute slides or graphs. You might encourage movement about the room or mini-groups that analyze a problem and offer solutions. But, optimized conferencing – phone, audio, or web – needs intuitive user-friendly technology that lets you focus on the culture of staff meetings – not the technology.

“Have variety in your staff meetings. Occasionally bring in a speaker, have the meeting off-site, have a celebration, use a film clip or article to generate discussion. Put your creativity hat on and make the meetings interesting” Marcia Zidle.

Tips, such as these, when effectively implemented,can help take your staff meetings to the next level. And no longer will attendees approach them with a sense of dread, but of excitement, and a strong desire to make a meaningful contribution.

What’s the best tip you’ve found for leading highly effective staff meetings?

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