I’ve been capturing notes around what makes meetings – where people are inspired and engaged rather than tired and frustrated. Here are a few points that make the difference:

– The chair takes responsibility
– Keep in mind the reason and purpose for the meeting
– Articulate the problem – what are we doing here?
Having a clear task/something to accomplish
Sharing a Common Vision/Goal
– Everyone is Equal
– Everyone is focused
– The Agenda is clear and distributed – at least 1 week ahead
Includes task/actions for follow up and items
States if an item requires a decision point or if it is a discussion point
Gives items time limits
– Chair is prepared and allows and expects others to be prepared
– Chair does some planning in advance thinking about what might be accomplished, but doesn’t over plan or complete the decision before the discussion
– Think about and ask – Should we be having this meeting?

Less effective meetings:
– Have Interruptions and stop ideas from flowing
– Never end
– Seem to never get anything resolved
– Don’t have a common goal or clear task
– Are often big meetings where people don’t know each other
– Have an unfocused chair who can be easily distracted and follow the tangents
– Have participants who don’t understand the issues or are overcommitted and not prepared
– Don’t have minutes so there is no record of what was accomplished
– Are sometimes regularly occurring meetings with no point (We’ve always had this meeting and it’s a place we’re used to gathering.

A few other points to consider when facilitating meetings
– If you are the facilitator of a meeting and not the group’s leader, you are more focused on the process
– If you are the leader facilitating a meeting you are always in both roles invested in the context and the process. Be conscious to step out of the facilitator role if you need to give your opinion and be conscious of how this impacts the group. Ask for assistance /allow someone to take over facilitating if the item is something that you need to present.
– The good qualities listed above are part of the process you want to ensure to make the meeting meaningful
– Remember you set the tone for the meeting the minute you walk into the room
Be fully present – arrange for backup if needed to reduce distractions
Be calm and respect all individuals and all ideas
Bring a non-judgmental approach to the room
If you are the group’s leader, you can overwhelm people intentionally or unintentionally; some people sit back and wait for the leader to talk
Start and end meetings on time. If you see an item needs more time, determine if a sub-group can handle the task and bring it back to the group next time or renegotiate the agenda or time to handle now. Don’t be afraid to table, assign to a small sub-group or to put it on a “parking lot” to revisit later. If you use a parking lot, it is important to track and make sure there is follow up.
– Consider ground rules to establish the group’s operating process and norms
Define how meetings will be run, how you will move through the agenda, how decisions will be made, how notes will be captured or summarized, how actions will be noted and reported
Engage them in helping you manage the process/how we behave and work together
– Engage the entire group.
Ask questions to get people involved
Don’t bring something already decided to the meeting if you are asking for input
You may need to reinforce that asking for input means you value everyone’s perspective and it is considered in the decision-making process. However, it may not mean every individual’s input will be reflected in the final decision.
Getting everyone engaged may mean building relationships outside of the meeting.
Appreciate people’s participation

A meeting is about doing something collectively that wouldn’t happen as individuals.