Running a Perfect Meeting

How to take control of your time and get more results in your new job?

Running a Perfect Meeting

When was the last time while going out of a meeting that you asked yourself: “What was this about?” Although one of the most powerful tools in business, when used unconsciously, they may damage more than build, both the company and your image. Meetings can be painful, frustrating, energy-draining, and costly. A fresh start is a perfect moment to improve your habits. If you just arrived in a new job or a new company, it is ideal timing mindful and strive for better.

I gathered below the reasons why you should review your meeting strategy and how to do it. I want to leave you with a pattern you can link and use in other areas. Having this image in mind, you can use the system for implementing and managing projects, guiding your days purposefully, and reaching your objectives.

I met very few companies with a standardized meeting procedure and even fewer people who read them. You kind of look around how things get done, take some examples from your previous, actual managers and DYI. With time, nobody, or rarely somebody, give you feedback related to your meeting habits, unless you insist on it.

I only started my quest, when I recognized some of my patterns while agonizing in other’s meetings. I was improving a few next meetings, and then I was falling back into the sin of “let’s just finish with this.” Here are some examples.

The “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE” Meeting. “Are you talking to me …?”. Welcome to the meeting when only your boss, or yourself as the boss, is speaking. No matter what others provided, they never get the chance to go through. When you’re not prepared, you become the main attraction of the “circus.” At one moment, your boss is picking up a comment, a KPI, or whatever is drawing his attention, and then …. Hell unleashed. You know the next hour you’ll meet a full power demonstration. The only comfort you might have: You’re not the target this time. Oufff. Finally, another meeting is over, and I am alive.

The “GREATEST SHOWMAN” Meeting. You will ask yourself, is this not the same as the previous one? Well, the last one is anger and frustration unleashed. This one’s hidden agenda is to build one person’s self-esteem, in contrast with others. You will hear how good I was doing in my previous company, what a mess is in here, and read between the lines how tiny and unworthy you should feel. It would be best if you were grateful, I am finally here to save you, furthermore, you have few to say. Your solely right is to watch your even more desperate colleague, smile, and give him/her a reassuring smile. “I hear you! Hang on! I am here for you!”

The “KILLING ME SOFTLY” Meeting. Or “CATS CHILLING” Meeting. No one is paying attention to anyone else, and everyone is there just because it happened to be. After a while, you look at the time and wish that it was over, but you realize it’s not even half time. Once you were seeking escape, looking at the door and hope for a fire alarm, or whatever can get you out. Today you know nothing will save you. You stare at the report projected on the big screen, and you know it took 1,5 minutes to prepare for some. In front of you, someone is falling asleep. Your left neighbor is checking the phone every 4,3 seconds. And your right neighbor’s single decision is which of his three phones to touch first.

And then there are the ET Meeting (usually after holidays: “ET – Phone – Home”), “Groundhog Day” meeting (“Didn’t we just talk about this yesterday?, I thought it was solved”), The “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” Meeting (“Do you have any idea what he was talking about?”).

In most of my previous meeting, there was an observer, a thinker, the one you have the impression will say the super-smart, on-point thing, yet, nope, never happens, or the multitasker, the one who with his nose in the computer the whole time, on an entirely different project, for an urgent report of course while “paying great attention to what you discuss.”

Of course, I am slightly exaggerating…or am I?

I know them so well because I have been in all the roles described above—my sin. Things don’t always have to be this way. You know, if you consciously chose to observe and adjust, it can be done differently.

Three reasons to urgently review your meetings strategy

60% of the participants of a workplace survey, declared meetings as one of the top three deviators, “just another distraction from the work they need to complete.”

Between the daily standup, a regular review, and another few other topics that urge for a meeting, studies show you can attend 62 meetings on average monthly, out of which half is wasted time, and contribute to at least 31 hours of unproductive time.

Here are three main reasons for you to analyze your meetings strategy and schedule:

1. It’s hugely boring: 91% reported daydreaming, 96% missed some, and 39% slept during meetings .

2. It creates stress, frustration, and lack of motivation: 45% felt overwhelmed by their number, 83% did other work while attending, and 47% complained that they were the #1 time-waster at their office.

3. It’s costly: $37 billion salary costs of unnecessary meetings for US businesses. For a 5-person reunion the minimum costs reported are between $338 and going up to $751,500 per year or $412 in another research . The average time participants spend to prepare for, travel to, and attend an in-person meeting is 53 hours and 24 minutes. In a study of time budgeting at large corporations, Bain & Company found that a single weekly meeting of midlevel managers cost one organization $15M a year!. You can estimate the cost of a meeting with this calculator from HBR .

Those statistics are not always applicable, yet they provide a snapshot of the reality in many companies. I will let you make your analytics, observations, and counting, and tell us: How much money are you losing every year with ineffective meetings? And I want to point out again, “ineffective”, because “meeting” is one of the three essential tools you need to master when you arrive in a new position.

The Signs You are The Meeting Expert

I had an Aha moment during my coaching training a few years ago with Alain Cardon, MCC , while he was giving us the analogy of a plane trip, with the coach as the pilot. After this training, I remained with: Did you land on time? Did you reach your destination? How do you make sure you track this during the meeting? As a manager, as a meeting host, you have the same responsibility: you must bring the people safe, in time, at the destination.

Some little changes make a big difference. I invite you to think in a simple project structure frame, seen from the three perspectives: Past, Present, Future adding the 5W: Who, What, Where, When, Why? And How comes.

Under this structure, I have forced myself to guide my meetings, yearly budgets, performance management, and today I keep my coaching sessions or trainings. So, what makes the perfect meeting perfect?

1. Think in the PAST

What does it need to happen in the soon to become past, so that the meeting is successful? Prepare, to give clarity: the initiation and planning part from the “project”:

You always know and share the WHY before the meeting. You mention the scope of the meeting and what precisely you want to get out of it. What’s the need or problem? Accordingly, you categorize in Info Sharing, Decision, Problem Solving, Innovation, and Team Building. Your do it only when needed and when it cannot be solved in a phone call or via email.

You have in your mind WHAT should happen. You send the agenda in advance with the list of topics and the main questions. You state your purpose and the takeaways. State clearly what everyone needs to prepare. I’ve been in so many meetings when subjects overlapped between departments, and there were at least two different people with the same charts, hopefully, the same figures, just a different presentation. You have listed before the meeting, the meeting minutes template, that will be used to take notes. What are the procedures to follow?

TIP: leave the phones and computers away from the meeting room. Encourage your team to take notes in the meeting instead. And say all this in advance.

You know The “WHO” you should Invite and who not? According to the purpose of the meeting and what should be the outcome, be selective. You want to reach the balance between minimum necessary and maximum allowed so that you have the limits between loss of information and excess of time loss. Who will take the notes? If you have the power, be restrictive on who can organize meetings in your department,

You define the WHEN and WHERE: Not only when and where it takes place, and the timings of the agenda. State clearly by when they need to prepare, where should they fill in, drop the docs. I’ve been in so many meetings when subjects overlapped between departments and there were at least two different people with the same charts, hopefully the same figures, just a different presentation.

TIP: There has to be at least one “No meeting day” per week and “No meeting hours” during a day.

You should send the report or slides, the day before the meeting so that everyone has time to read it. In preparing your presentation, follow the ten seconds rule: if you think it might take more than ten seconds per slide, the chances are that it is either too complicated, too much information, or maybe not enough. You can learn how to improve your presentation skills continuously.

2. Focus on the PRESENT.

When you start the meeting, you forget the PAST. What does it need to happen to get the maximum previously defined? You Execute, Launch, Monitor & Control Performance part from the “project”:

You restate the WHY. Focus on deliverables. You remember the intention. In the beginning, you make sure everyone knows why they’re there. Insist on facts and don’t derail from the topic. When you feel the drift, remind the intention. Prepare in advance some formulations, to bring them back to the problem .

You follow the WHAT. Keep the focus and discipline. You monitor the progress, make everyone contribute, while listening and letting the other speak. You make sure the agenda is respected. You are mindful of any unforeseen points and take them “offline.” You have clear action plans. You keep the energy level high: pay attention to the people around you, notice their body language. Are they bored beyond measure? Ask them questions and get them involved subtly.

You connect and establish trust with the WHO. Who is there? Who should be there? Who should not be there? Who else can be there? Who else should be there? Who is responsible for each action point. Make sure they can do what they promised: they have the time, resources, energy to accomplish. Who is taking the notes?

You keep everyone accountable with WHEN and WHERE. Before going even further, the first rule is to start on time and end in time. Where are you with the respect of the timing in the agenda. Manage the time: spend as little as possible on intro’s and table tours, but do make sure to connect with everyone if you a newcomer. Spend more time on the takeaways and action plan. Land on time at the destination.

3. Prepare the FUTURE.

The future is just a mere consequence of the present state and starts in the last 5 minutes of a meeting. Wrap-up: the monitoring phase and the closure of the “project”. Some people might like to leave things in a mysterious ending, like at the end of a “good movie”, let it not be the case of your meetings.

Come back to WHY. End your meetings with a summary. Why did we meet? Why would you take the time in the future to do what we just decided?

Acknowledge the WHAT. What did you accomplish? What will be the next steps and responsibilities? You send meeting minutes at the end with the actions to be done, who is responsible, and when is it due? You have to make this information known; otherwise, there is no reason to complain that no one is doing what you requested.

Thank the WHO’s. Ask for feedback, but not the typical kind of feedback: How was I? Was I good, or was I okay? Right? Ask better: what could be one thing we could do better next time? It’s a chance to connect with your people and encourage them. Carefully and assertively share your findings and proposals with your colleagues and boss. I’m afraid that “Just say no” doesn’t always work. With the right words, rapport, and patience, you can move mountains.

Follow the WHEN and WHERE. It is excellent when the meeting minutes follow in the next hour. And you find a way to hold accountable the people until the next meeting, so you can avoid answers like “Well, I didn’t have the time to prepare”, or “Was it up to me to do this?” Make sure you have either a system to follow the advancement, or check-points from one meeting to the other.

Alexandra Claes

Alexandra Claes

Developping targeted solutions to guide businesses & leadership in transition, to exceed expectations in performance and growth.

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Meetings are a crucial part of every business. You may think about it as a piece of common knowledge, yet my both corporate and consulting experience confirmed me there is always something to learn. It’s good to remind ourselves that learning doesn’t make us perfect; the application could.

Ask yourself regularly: What were you expecting? How did it go? What could you do next time, so that is even better?
In the next meeting, apply and make it even better.
If you have the opportunity, have the meetings recorded. And then, analyze the language and behaviors, the dynamics, and the interactions.
If you have the opportunity, get a coach to help you with the feedback.

Set your objectives for the following week’s meetings. Track the improvements. Celebrate. Be compassionate with yourself and others. All this will help you get success through the Transition period in your new job.

If you fail to do so, or if it takes you longer than the average transition period to adjust, the company will either not be able to capture all the value expected, or worse, they lose money, creating negative value. Your career can be impacted in the long-term as well.

It can be even easier to navigate through change and succeed in a new role by having a clear and Structured Roadmap from the beginning.

Mastering the Technical Side of Transition: Strategy, Result is only one part of the equation. Equally important are the Emotional Mastery Practices we use to establish acceptance, drive change, gain credibility and trust, connect and integrate into the new team, share a vision, and be regarded as a mentor to develop others.

How do you ensure you inspire ingenuity and innovation? How do you ensure results that will improve your expert image even further?

Today, you have Leaders Transition Booster, developping targeted solutions to guide businesses & leadership in transition, to exceed expectations in performance and growth.
We help you, the new manager, or your newly hired leader, if you’re a company, to get you through a job change successfully and make sure you don’t skip the most important steps.

1. Scan and Position. Make a proper evaluation of the new environment. Listen, watch, observe, learn. Assess SWOTs: both yours and your new company’s. Know where you are. Identify where you want to go and why.

2. Develop a Strategy to get there. Define what is commonly acceptable by all stakeholders for reaching those goals.

3.  Define and build your plan. Integrate your resources, both human and material, and negotiate the deadlines.

4. Manage Performance in Execution. Launch quickly, get early feedback and adjust rapidly. Establish corrective actions and get your quick wins.

During the transition process, we show you how to reinforce your credibility factors: gain trust, prove expertise and inspire with your vision and mindset.

Do you have any thoughts to share on the reasons why one should not ignore the transition phase?

We’d love to hear from you. Let us know your opinions, challenges and successes in the comments below or email: alexandra@alexandraclaes.com. 

Alexandra Claes is Associated Certified Coach, ACC ICF, grounded with experience in Business and Leadership. She has more than 15 Years of Business and Industry Background, Coaching Methodology and Leadership development experience. Trainer NLP, Certified in Emotional Intelligence EQI2.0, trained in Neuroscience for Brain Heath and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Practitioner. Founder or Claes Consulting, a consulting company that teaches leaders practical, evidence-based strategies for maximising performance. Contact Alexandra HERE.

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