Only three things happen at meetings: Announcements are made, ideas are discussed, and action is taken. Here are five cool ways to run a meeting.
1. Establish positive expectation.
Lack of imagination and copycat planning has reduced most business meetings into mush. I once interviewed an employee who informed me that his company’s morning meeting was dubbed “The Trouble Meeting.” I said, “So you start every day with ‘trouble?’” and he said “yes.” The leader’s job is to establish positive expectation and deliver the meeting in a fun or interesting way. Create a themed agenda, for example.
2. Build it and they will come.
One of the secrets to holding an effective meeting is to offer value. Value can be new information, the way in which the information is presented, or a little touch that makes the meeting unique and distinct. Interview meeting participants to learn what type of meetings are important for them.
3. Give attendees their “propers.”
“The Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin, who was born here in Detroit, sings that you’ve got to give people their “propers.” Most meetings feature the manager or supervisor as the lead singer. Smart leaders move the spotlight around the room to showcase individual attendees and encourage other team members to sing lead. Use words like “interesting” and “helpful” when introducing each person. Have various attendees present a product tip or a recent customer success story.
4. Watch the clock, but not literally.
Start meetings on time so you can end on time. Establish a timekeeper to limit rambling and keep the meeting on schedule. The leader should never be the timekeeper because then the same person who encourages participation also tells people that they must stop talking. The best timekeepers are attendees who like telling people what to do.
Never let attendees see you look at your watch. Use the agenda to gently remind verbose participants that “according to the agenda, this is only an ‘announcement.’ We can discuss it next week, if you like.” Leaders can also say, “the agenda shows this topic as an ‘action’ item. We discussed it last week and now we need to put it to a vote.”
5. Be original and others will enjoy your meetings.
Keep mentioning participants by name during teleconference calls and meetings. Ask targeted questions to discourage people them from using the “mute” button or otherwise distracting themselves. If you want to have short meetings, don’t set up any chairs. Another way to enjoy brief meetings is to call the group together 10 minutes before the end of the day.
Michael Angelo Caruso is president of Edison House, a Michigan-based consulting company. His blog appears regularly on dbusiness.com.