Nigel Collin provides a checklist to ensure that your meetings are more effective.

Like me, you spend an enormous part of your life in meetings. Which is good because face-to-face meetings and events have enormous value and are very hard to replace. But they can also be ineffective and costly when done wrong. Fortunately, there are certain pitfalls which can easily be overcome.

So here’s a simple checklist of things to avoid, because we if eliminate the bad what we are left with is the good.

1 Too many things.

Like a good movie where there is a very clear plot with a very clear problem for the hero to solve, a meeting (whether a one on one or a conference of 4000) needs to have a clear objective. Not many, just one. Again, like a movie, once there are too many storylines it gets hard to follow, and sure there may be subplots involved but they must support the main story. Meetings are no different. As soon as you try to cover too many objectives and solve too many problems, your participants will become unclear as to why they are there, what you want them to achieve and worse still, they will then start to disengage. You need to have a clear meeting objective so here’s a simple rule. One meeting = one objective.

2 Buy-in instead of ownership

As we discussed in previous issues, one of the biggest challenges with a meeting is getting people engaged and staying engaged. Part of the reason this fails is because meeting holders go for buy-in and not ownership. The difference is that you can thrust buy-in onto someone. For example, stating that ‘if you’re not there you are sacked’ will get people to buy-in but it won’t get them engaged. Ownership, however, is when you find a way for them to want to be there and want to get involved.

So get them involved early, communicate well, ask for their input and listen.

3 Squirrel Chasing

Remember the movie ‘Up’ where the dogs have voice translators on their collars so they can talk to you but as they are talking every so often they get distracted and yell out ‘Squirrel!’. When people in meetings get side-tracked and chase squirrels nothing gets resolved. Maybe if you are having a ‘Think Tank’ or ‘Ideation Session’ then squirrel chasing can be advantageous BUT only if it’s directed and structured properly.

The antidotes for squirrel chasing are having a clear objective (one, not many), and designing the right structure and agenda.

4 Not having a good facilitator

There is an art to facilitating, and yes I am biased. A good facilitator talks less and listens more. They pick up on trends and the flow of conversations, they find open doors of conversation to go through and explore, they ask provocative questions and are prepared to take a hit for the team. And most importantly they are unbiased.

I believe every meeting needs a good professional facilitator because they ensure everything that occurs serves the objective and the purpose of the meeting itself.

5 Dictatorships

Some meetings and events end up as dictatorships, where the chair or the holder of the meeting doesn’t just drive it they won’t let anyone else in the car. Yes meetings need to have someone at the helm, take the lead and direct things but that is very different from being bombastic, failing to listen to participants and not being open to fresh ideas.

A great meeting or event is where communication doesn’t flow one way but is multidirectional.