10 ways to power-up your business meetings
7 minute read
They say that a meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There are a number of techniques businesses can employ to make their meetings more productive, powerful and purposeful.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 of these, including a few utilised by some of the most successful business people of the century.
Adopt the 18-minute rule
Psychological research has shown that humans tend to experience a lapse in concentration after paying attention for 18 minutes. One of the most famous studies into this phenomenon was conducted by Boise State University in 2014 when researchers attended in excess of 90 different lectures to study lapses in attention.
It’s this sort of insight that inspired the creators of TED talks to cap their presentation slots at 18 minutes.
So, forget those 30 to 60-minute time slots and, next time you schedule a meeting, put it in the diary for a maximum of 18 minutes to ensure everyone stays focused.
Have a five-word agenda
Christopher Frank, vice president for American Express, has been quoted as saying that you should be able to summarise the purpose of a meeting in just five words. So, the next time you have a meeting, forget about creating a detailed agenda and simply cut to the chase. What’s the point of the meeting? Ignore any recaps or catch ups on previous debates linked to the topic – see the flip your meeting point below – and make your agenda as simple as ‘Agree launch date for XX’ or ‘Pick colour for new logo’ or ‘Set budget for XX’.
Eleven’s a crowd
Founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos is renowned for his two-pizza rule i.e. the concept that neither teams or meetings need to feature more people than it takes to feed with two pizzas.
Reportedly, Steve Jobs felt the same, believing that meetings became unproductive when the attendee list exceeded 10 people at a time.
Of course, there’s the old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. So next time you schedule a meeting consider delegating the decision-making responsibility to a smaller set of people. This technique also frees up the time of other people to focus on other key decisions.
Picture your usual meeting. If you’re like many other small to medium businesses your regular meetups take place sat around a table and said table is topped with coffee cups, laptops, tablets, mobile devices and maybe even biscuits. In other words - distractions
Stand-up meetings, also known as huddles, do away with these distractions. They have also been shown to reduce meeting times by up to 25 per cent – see the 18-minute rule above.
As we mentioned in our recent blog How to do healthier business, walking meetings are recommended by Public Health England as a way to decrease stress and reduce staff sick days.
They’re also a habit of some of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 21st century. Mark Zuckerberg is said to hold one-to-one meetings with people as he hikes a woodland trail near Facebook’s San Francisco headquarters. And according to Steve Jobs’ biographer, the Apple co-founder took as many walking meetings as he could.
Consider the ‘write a cheque’ approach
Top American businessman Mark Cuban has been quoted as saying: “The only way you're going to get me for a meeting is if you're writing me a cheque.”
He’s not necessarily talking literally, though. According to Inc magazine, what the multimillionaire means by this is that he won’t agree to a meeting unless there’s a decision that can be finalised at that meeting. Exploration and discussion should take place beforehand.
What do you think when you see a team member doodling in a meeting? You think they’re not paying attention, right? In reality, though, the reverse could be true. Research published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology suggests that doodling can actually lead to better recall after meetings.
In fact, according to Harvard Medical Review, more than half of America’s presidents have had a habit for doodling. Theodore Roosevelt is said to have doodled animals and children while Ronald Regan doodled cowboys and football players.
Set up a War Room
If you know you’re going to need a series of meetings on a single project or topic, you might want to consider setting up a war room or, if your office isn’t that big, a war space.
This is an area that’s temporarily dedicated to a project. Notes about the project can be tacked to the walls so they’re always accessible. This technique has been shown to improve meeting participants’ recall of the project content.
If the notes, diagrams and post-its to do with the project remain on the walls or surfaces of the space over time, they can also improve clarity of a team working on a project. Team members can always pop back to the space between meetings to get a visual representation of what was agreed in the last meeting sprint and to ensure that they’re on the same page as other members of the team.
Flip your meeting
The flipped meeting technique is nothing new, but it’s still something that many companies are unaware of. Flipping a meeting involves sharing a meeting presentation before the meeting takes place. It gives participants time to really ‘do their homework’ on the content of the scheduled meeting and it gives them time to form their own judgements and develop their own opinions ahead of the get-together. When the meeting time comes around, the decision-making process should be faster because people have been informed and empowered ahead of time.
Connection before content outlook
This concept would have the likes of Mark Cuban reeling. However, AI company, Live Person, suggests that the connection before content approach can make meetings significantly more effective.
The concept works on the assumption that relationships are an essential part of change and that people should be able to bond before they come together to make big decisions.
This doesn’t mean you need to take your team on a spa day before each major meeting. Instead, carrying out the connection before content technique successfully can be as simple as asking a question at the start of each meeting.
This question should be designed to get people out of their comfort zone and to break down barriers to giving input from the get-go. The question can be as simple as ‘what are you doubting today?’ or ‘why do you care about this today?’.