Can our online meetings be less exhausting and more productive, less dull and more inclusive?

I believe they can and I would be really interested to hear from you if you’ve been experimenting with ways to make your meetings snappier and ones that people actually look forward to.

8 ways to run snappier, energising meetings

#1 — Ask everyone to prepare for your meetings.

Avoid them being updates on information available elsewhere. This might take some time to train your team to do this. It might take a few weeks before everyone comes to accept it as standard protocol for meetings.

#2 — Do your prep too!

Take 5-10 minutes to make a list of your key points, messages and lines of enquiry and get clear on what you need to leave the meeting with, what decisions or buy-in you need. Ask the same of anyone who will be facilitating any key agenda items.

#3 — Make the first 5 minutes prep time.

In the interim, while you are getting people used to the idea and practice of preparing for meetings, you do also need to assume that most have not read your pre-meeting email or reports so use the first 5 minutes of your meeting as the prep time. In other words, at the start of your meeting, ask everyone to use those first 5 minutes to read those emails and reports, and gather their thoughts and questions, and THEN start the meeting.

#4 — Outline what you want to cover in the meeting and be realistic

Be realistic about what you can get to in the time that you have. Make a distinction between the “must discuss” and “if we have time to discuss”. Check-in with everyone for any suggestions or requests. Rationalise and prioritise your agenda, start with the most important or most strategic first.

#5 — Make your introductory summaries snappy

Snappy enough that everyone knows what topic you’re discussing, any complications and the question that needs answering. Ask people to refer to any emails or reports for the details — this is why preparation is so key, it saves answering all those questions that have already been answered.

#6 — Could your meetings be less operational and more strategic?

Many meetings end up being tactical or status updates on stuff that’s already addressed in other meetings. Perhaps your meeting could be better used for getting people to think and contribute in more strategic ways that are aligned to organisational goals and targets. With strong and inclusive facilitation, your meeting could be a great space for surfacing risks AND opportunities.

#7 — Develop your meeting facilitation skills

So you become more aware of behaviours within the meeting that contribute and build on other people’s ideas, and behaviours that discount, ignore or hijack the conversation. Some behaviours are positive and energise us, and some behaviours are negative and drain the last ounce of energy from us. So, learn to read body language, even in online meetings, monitor energy levels, and ask people to be succinct in their contributions — that’s another reason for making meeting preparation a priority.

Energising Meetings

#8 — Go last

You need to be aware that as a leader, what you say carries a great deal of weight. Often more than you think. The trick to getting people to contribute is for you to give a snappy summary of the topic you want to discuss without using leading or loaded language or that points to your position on it. So be as neutral as you can. Ask a single clear question that invites discussion, and then fall silent – hold the space for people to start speaking, might take a full minute. Once everyone has spoken, THEN offer up your point of view. This way you can be sure what you’re hearing is people’s real point of view, that you haven’t missed a key consideration, and that you’re not sitting in an echo chamber.

Do check out my other videos on conversation skills and skills for leaders who coach.

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