I’ve conducted thousands of meetings and every one of them began as an outline. By creating an outline, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to discuss, how long it will take, and who will be involved. Keep in mind, content is what matters — not pretty notes. Here’s how to plan an effective meeting. It starts with an outline.
Below is a simple meeting checklist. Use it or make your own — what’s important is to plan your meeting. Even the best extemporaneous speakers may ramble, lecture, and get off subject without a plan. How to plan an effective meeting isn’t one size fits all it depends on your preferences and needs.
How to Plan an Effective Meeting
Choose Subject Matter
For example, review training material, policies, procedures, and results. Recognize exemplary behavior and introduce new products, contests, goals, etc. Another idea is to share inspirational and motivational material.
Decide on a Meeting Style
Will it be educational, motivational, humorous, or a combination?
Implement the Style
It could be role-play, fill in the blank, or review. Other examples might include a game, a challenge, or a guest speaker.
Consider the Relevant Points
What should stand out? What should the attendees take away? Most topics should include activities to improve, continue, begin, or eliminate.
Share the Benefits
What will the meeting do for them? This is what motivates most of us. It could be money, recognition, advancement, job satisfaction, workload, or schedule.
Plan a Commitment
How to plan an effective meeting should include commitments. Ask the team members to commit to following the activities outlined in the meeting. Consider asking each individual what they got out of the meeting and how they will use this.
Ask yourself the following after the meeting to evaluate your performance.
- What worked and why?
- What didn’t work and why?
- Where is improvement needed?
- What was learned?
- Where should focus be concentrated?
- What was accomplished?
- Ask a trusted team member for their input
Manage The Activities, Not The Results
When planning your meeting, keep in mind the results are history — you can’t change the past. Hopefully, though, you’ll learn from the past. To change the future, you have to change activities. You need to understand what needs improved, and recognize activities to repeat. Don’t allow luck to be credited for success. Seneca, a first century Roman philosopher said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” When planning the meeting, consider the following:
- Activities to repeat
- Activities to begin
- Actions to improve
- Activities to eliminate
- Activities to reintroduce
Don’t Lecture — Plan Engagement
A common meeting-conducting mistake is lecturing, as in, talking at the audience, not with them. Most of us are not sufficiently engaging and entertaining enough to hold the team’s undivided attention for 30 minutes of chatter. Have you been on the other side of one of these lectures? Were you bored? Did you drift off? Avoid lecturing by planning. Plan who to question and what questions to ask. Consider how to involve and engage the team. Learn to use questions instead of statements. Instead of lecturing about how a thing-a-ma-jiggy is made, ask someone how it’s made. Instead of reading through a manual, ask someone the points in the manual. Learn to use open-ended questions. What? Why? and How?
Choose Your Audience
An installation manager planned a weekly crew leader meeting around a reoccurring problem. The problem was caused when specific procedures were not followed. He had discussed this subject previously, and it was becoming difficult to keep this topic positive. I asked how many crew leaders didn’t follow the procedure, and he said, “two.” Don’t give a meeting to everyone that is only aimed at a few. This will be negative, boring — and for many — a waste the time. Conduct a separate meeting for the offenders. Don’t waste the time of those who do it right, work with those who need the help.
I Think I’ve Said This Before…
Don’t be afraid to repeat meetings. You should expect to repeat meetings. Most people don’t “get it” in one meeting. I only retain a small portion of any meeting. It’s good to repeat — it will improve your team. You don’t have to come up with something new every meeting!
The Secret – How To Improve Your Presenting Skills
I recently heard, “Most people practice something until they get it right. Professionals practice until they cannot get it wrong!” My point is to practice. To this day, I isolate myself and rehearse meetings, and I’ve conducted meetings for … well, a long time! Practice. When you mess up, don’t give up. You’re going to make mistakes. Practice and you will improve!
12 Steps to Planning a Meeting
I hope this helps a few meeting facilitators. We have all experienced unproductive, time-consuming meetings. If you conduct meetings, don’t be a time/energy vampire.
What’s Your Plan?
1. Plan A Meeting
Know what you want to discuss. Use a meeting outline, scratch it on a legal pad, write it in Microsoft Word, etc. It doesn’t have to be pretty. The content is what matters.
2. Follow A Schedule
Have set times and always start on-time. I believe most meetings (not training — that’s another story) should last 20-30 minutes, after which, the most attentive team members will drift.
3. Give Recognition
Reinforce positive behaviors — most people want to repeat the recognized behavior. They want to hear the praise again. Don’t you? You, yes … you, the person reading this now — choosing to read this post shows you are trying to be a better leader! Good for you! Recognition feels good, doesn’t it? Look for every opportunity to recognize positive behavior, activities, character, and results.
4. Do Not Reprimand
Never reprimand an individual in a group setting! Never, never, ever— never. This should be done in private.
5. Avoid Lecturing
Do not stand in front of the group and talk for 30 minutes. Do you know how boring this is? Your team will lose focus.
6. Involve Everyone
When planning the meeting, consider whom you will involve and how you will involve him or her. Before the meeting, discuss the topic with a few team members. If you like their input, let them know they will be called upon.
7. Be Flexible
Occasionally, you may need to adjust your meeting plan to share new information; the key here is that you have a meeting plan. If, however, you are changing your meeting frequently, you may be trying to manage results not activities. You can only change results through planned activities.
8. Maintain Control
Do not allow any individual to dominate the meeting. The best way to do this may be step #6. It’s okay to tell someone, who is off-subject, their point may be more appropriate for another time.
9. Involve As Many Senses As Possible
Show it, talk about it, and share it in writing. Consider the varied learning styles of your team.
10. Use Props
Outside materials, articles, videos, samples, flyers, graphs, charts, costumes, etc. (Yup, I’ve worn some silly stuff.)
11. Involve Others
Share a broader view by inviting members from other departments or organizations to participate. Share a larger picture.
12. Do Not Allow Interruptions
Emphasize the importance of being on-time. Do not allow tardy people to interrupt the meeting. It’s unfair to those teammates who were on time. If six people wait five minutes each, you have wasted ½ hour! Politely ask anyone late to begin his or her appointed tasks. Catching-up a tardy participant may be worse; you chance losing the rest of the participants, thus shortchanging your message.
Turn off phones — no texting, tweeting, or talking. All are rude during a presentation. It is impossible to give your full attention to the speaker, and yes I have done all the above.
Is it Time for a Plan?
Would you like more information? Contact me if you’d like to chat. I’d be happy to share my thoughts such as:
- How to plan an effective meeting
- Creating a meeting outline
- How to use different styles of meetings
Still more – I’ve found the Free Management Library a source of useful information and excellent content on how to plan an effective meeting and much more. It may take you on a journey from link to link, or maybe it’s my ADHD again.
What have you learned about conducting meetings? What do you dislike about attending meetings? Join in and share. What is your plan for planning a meeting? Do you know how to plan an effective meeting?
3 Easy Types of Meetings
I believe the primary purpose of a group meeting is to prepare your team for the challenges of the day. Secondary purposes of developing camaraderie, encouraging team cohesion, reinforcing education, giving recognition, reviewing plans, and setting policies are also important. At the end of every meeting, you should ask yourself:
- Who gained something from this meeting?
- Is the team ready to take on the challenges of the day?
- Have I prepared them for the day, or have I wasted valuable time?
- What meeting skill can I improve?
As a young man, I sold Volkswagens. I loved the cars and the corporate philosophy. The dealership where I worked held “sales” meetings every morning. Unfortunately, the sales manager used the time to complain. He complained about where cars were parked, keys hung, brochures stacked, etc. Although these complaints had merit, they did not prepare the sales staff to enthusiastically greet customers. My point is to know your audience and what you want to accomplish before the meeting. Pick the best style to fit your purposes.
Let’s Review 3 Styles of Meetings
- Educational Meetings
- Humorous Meetings
- Cheerleading (rah-rah) Meetings
An effective meeting could use any combination of these styles. Some presenters are good with all three, while others struggle. You don’t have to be good with all three styles! For example, you would excel at group meetings if you gave nothing but well-planned, well-executed, educational meetings.
Managers in production, installation, IT, sales, and marketing can use this plan, enacting role-play meetings. It is one of the most effective techniques, and it can be used repeatedly.
1. Choose one procedure to improve
2. Show your team how to execute the procedure correctly
3. Allow your team to execute the procedure
Allow your team the time to complete the procedure correctly, or plan to carry over the meeting. If an individual struggles, consider planned follow-up training for him or her. Role-play is not limited to verbal. Be creative; it can be hands-on, such as how to install, repair, create, and more. Point two does not have to be you, it can be any competent team member.
Keep quizzes simple and on one topic. Use what you like. True or false, multiple choice, essay, etc.
Fill In The Blanks
Use existing training information, but omit a few key words and phrases to be filled in as you lead the group in discussion.
Whatever you have as initial new hire training, repeat it, repeat it again, repeat it some more, and repeat it often. Did I say repeat it? I believe you will be surprised and rewarded by discovering what was not retained.
Consider this advanced training. Hopefully, you didn’t try to cover all contingencies in the initial basic training. You might survey the team to discover where they need help.
Okay, this is not for everyone, but it may be easier than you think. The humor must be appropriate, never attacking or downgrading, and not innuendo. It should be on-subject. Having fun at work does not have to be unproductive. Humor often improves team spirit and enthusiasm.
Take any current game show format and replace the questions with questions relevant to your meeting, industry, or organization.
Hold a Challenge or Contest
Contests can be one-on-one or team vs. team. They can be based on quality, production, overall performance, etc. The prize doesn’t have to be extravagant; pride may be the best prize of all! Something as simple as a #Winning ribbon may be more effective than you think.
Stage a Trial
Assign an attorney and a prosecutor. You’re the judge and the group is the jury. Try catching people doing things right, such as following procedure. “How do you plea?”
Theme it around holidays and seasons. Dress up for Halloween. Have a 80’s or a hippie meeting or day. You or one of your team members dress as a prospect or customer and role-play the interaction. Conduct a summer meeting outdoors.
Cheerleading (rah-rah) Meetings
Some leaders are naturals; however, their results are often due to practice. Most of us enjoy hearing about ourselves. So, take every available opportunity to recognize positive behavior. We all like recognition and hearing our name. Try this — every time you recognize a group, or individual, simply add, “Let’s give them a hand!” while applauding enthusiastically.
At the beginning and/or end of meetings, use a group slogan such as, “Go team,” “Team first,” or “we’re #1,” etc. Be creative. I know a team of positive producers whose daily end-of-meeting slogan is, “Don’t suck!”
Call and Response
Call out questions for which the team has a planned response like, “Who’s the best team?” I observed a team that had pre-planned responses for each of several products they marketed.
Show your team the rewards of excellence, be it financial rewards, job satisfaction, advancement, etc. Explain the activities needed to excel, then show your team how it benefits them.
What Styles of Meetings Fit Your Needs?
Poorly Planned Meeting Plans
The proverb, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail,” warns us of the significance of planning to our success. Poor, little, or no planning is also a huge time waster.
Poorly Planned Meeting
Tackling a project without proper planning will, at least, prolong the project, if not, cause it to fail. Check out this example of a poor plan that does not achieve the desired result (my cat likes this video).
Another example of poor planning is not creating clear organizational goals or creating goals without the required training to reach those goals. Creating goals without training is nearly the same as having no goals.
The same can be said for a lack of policies (what), procedures (how), missions (why), and vision (where we are going). If your organization does not have these in place, establish them. (If you would like ideas on how to get started, contact me.)
Unplanned or poorly planned meetings are almost always a time waster. Impromptu meetings easily become unfocused (think Steve Carell in The Office). The number of attendees multiplies the time wasted in unplanned meetings.
Survey says … two of the top five time wasters are — drum roll please — too many meetings, and meetings that are too long. What’s worse than an elongated meeting is a meeting that is not needed at all. A friend texted me last week on the way to a pre-staff meeting – that’s a meeting about a meeting!
How many hours a week do you spend in meetings?
According to a Microsoft survey, people in the U.S. spend 5.5 hours each week in meetings; 71 percent feel meetings aren’t productive. Unneeded team members involved in the meeting are another waste of time. Monologues with no participation from the group will bore others to distraction, which counts as a waste of time. Scheduling a lot of meetings may seem productive, but too often, it is the opposite.
So how do you plan your meetings? Do you have effective, shared goals? How much time do you spend in meetings, and how productive are the meetings? And, of course, I’d love to hear your humorous or horrific meeting stories! BTW, be sure to send how to plan an effective meeting to anyone who needs to read this (especially if you have to sit through their unplanned meetings).
If you’d like to know more on how to plan an effective meeting try this, You Can’t Talk Shit Done: Adding Actions to Words.
If I can answer any questions leave me a note in comments.
We’ll schedule a meeting.
How Can I Help You?
I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me.
So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.