Betty Lochner, an expert in training, coaching and communication, shares 7 tips that will keep you out of Meeting Hell and in Meeting Heaven! In her recent blog, she shares 7 wonderful insights. I’ve added some additional suggestions so you can easily implement these ideas and facilitate great meetings:
1. Develop a list of agreements.
Make sure the expectations of the meeting are agreed upon right from the start. Make a list on a flip chart that includes going over the agenda and agreeing to time limits on each issue and when the meeting will end. The list should include when breaks are expected and how long they will be. This first step will help you solve many of your meeting challenges. If things start to get off track, refer back to the agreements and timeline.
If you don’t have access to a flip chart or whiteboard, a Tabletop Whiteboard will let you make the agreement visible to all, and is easy to transport and move.
2. Offer thinking tools.
Many people think more creatively when their hands are busy. Try putting Legos or pipe cleaners on the tables. Choose from a broad selection of fidget tools. Creativity Boosting Fidget Toys that will let users craft, mold, and create include Putty, Pipe Cleaners, Brain Noodles, Beach in a Box. Alternatively, choose a fidget that will simply keep the brain focused by using up “floating attention.”
3. Keep a list of “parking lot” items.
Use a flip chart or whiteboard and write the words PARKING LOT across the top. Anytime a participant goes off topic, stop them, capture the topic and write it on the parking lot list for future discussion. This helps you stay on topic and avoid spending time on items not on the agenda that are better suited for further discussion at a later time.
Tabletop Whiteboards are great for “parking lot” ideas. In addition, themed Sticky Notes can help facilitators and participants to sort through and organize comments or questions requiring further attention. For example: Body Smarts Sticky Notes (eye, ear, brain, etc), Sad, Mad, Glad Notes, and Start-Stop-Continue-Change Notes can help focus input comments and questions.
4. Write it down.
Use a flip chart, whiteboard, or scribe on a computer to capture any key points and decisions throughout the meeting.
We’ve talked about Tabletop Whiteboards. Wizard Wall and ThinkBoards are removable and repositionable whiteboards that you can put anywhere. No matter what surface you use, be certain that you have fresh bold markers!
5. Keep on time and on track.
Check in every 15 -30 min or so (depending on length of the meeting), and note where you are compared to the agenda and timeline. Note how much time you have before you need to move on.
The Time Timer is a great visual representation of time remaining. You may want to assign a time keeper to gently remind the group of where they are with time.
6. Encourage participation from your introverts.
It’s not unusual for 2 or 3 participants to dominate most meetings. Ask some of the less vocal participants for their thoughts. And, give those who need some time a minute or two to think first. Those members of the team are good at observing and processing the information and often come up with the best questions or ideas if given the time and opportunity.
Asking all participants to jot down their thoughts on sticky notes or Answer Boards can ensure participation by all. In addition, requesting “quiet time” for writing gives everyone mental space to think, which is not always available in traditional brainstorm sessions or meetings when everyone is shouting out ideas.
7. Take time to talk about next steps.
At the end of the meeting, make sure you leave time to recap any decisions, actions to be taken, assignments given and what happens next.
Have individual participants commit to their next steps by having them jot down their own notes on what they intend to do, and when! What? So What? Now What? Sticky Notes and Start-Stop-Continue-Change Notes can be great resources for this.
With the right tools, and Betty’s seven sound tips, you’re sure to transform ho-hum meetings into events that are worth their time.