Productive meetings require thoughtful planning and skilled execution in several key areas. We’ve discussed several important techniques – like the 6 Hats approach discussed in our Ultimate Meeting Guides – that add value to your meetings. But focusing solely on techniques can lead you astray because the fundamentals get lost. Using these skills without having the fundamentals in place would be like installing a fancy chandelier in a house that’s gradually sliding down a hill.
So what are the fundamental aspects that make your meetings and conference calls truly productive? We think it distills down into these 5 items.
Meeting the Goals
Having a clear goal to achieve is a good fundamental reason to hold a meeting or conference. Every meeting should have a specific goal, and no meeting should be held with only vague goals in mind. Whatever the goal, shape it into the heart and soul of the discussion. Everything – the slides, the chosen attendees, the conversations, the action items – should support it. Cut out any extraneous material and drive to action. You might be surprised at how this laser-like focus on actually achieving the goals can improve outcomes.
Achieving Greater Community Connection
Meetings are about people working together to achieve synergy. Improving relationships and creating stronger teams should thus be a secondary fundamental goal of every meeting. Use them to understand the personalities and motivations of your participants and seek ways to help them work better together. Go out of your way to ensure everyone knows everyone else’s name and role, for example. Make your own positive attitude an example and gently redirect any negativity. Setting a tone of cooperation will help your team work together to help you.
Meetings are supposed to be helpful, but how many work hours are wasted attending meeting after meeting? A fundamental question to ask yourself is whether the meeting will save you time or steal your time. If a meeting isn’t going to save you time, don’t schedule it! There’s probably a better way to achieve your goal. Only hold a meeting if that is the most expeditious method. Even then, consider scheduling it for the shortest time you could reasonably achieve the goals – an hour isn’t necessary for every goal.
Controlling the Message
Meetings give you the fundamental opportunity to influence the spirit of your organization for the better. If you use meetings to communicate with your team members openly and frankly about any issues affecting the company, you give yourself the opportunity to put the right spin on the concern, build trust, and remove the power of the rumor mill.
Knowing the Way Forward
The final fundamental aspect of meetings and conferences is establishing a clear way forward. Every meeting can help illuminate the path for your participants. Without clear direction – whether on a small matter or a huge one – progress is difficult to achieve, and the whole organization may flounder. Seeing signs of confusion among your team is a fundamental enough concern to schedule a meeting.
Meetings can be critically important, but are so often just a habit. Even when you’ve considered and implemented some of the many techniques to improve them, they still can end up being a waste of time. So, for your next meeting, focus on these 5 fundamental issues to ensure value is being added. Are you achieving a specific goal, improving the participants’ sense of community, saving time, shaping a message, or illuminating a way forward? If one or all of these fundamentals are in place, you have solid ground on which to build. The chandelier will look much better when the house is level!