Have you ever walked out of a meeting and had this thought: “I will never get that hour of my life back”? (Did I just see your eyes roll?)
Most meetings feel like a waste of time. We might even have a good conversation and enjoy the hour. But if we accomplish nothing, well, we accomplish nothing.
To make sure your next meeting accomplishes something, take these three simple actions:
1. Include the Purpose in Your Meeting Invitation
When most meeting invitations get sent, we have the people invited, the room location chosen, the time and duration set, and the subject line filled out. All too often, I see the body of the meeting invitation either blank or with a bland description like “Weekly team meeting” or “Here’s the agenda” (more on agendas later).
Next time you send a meeting invitation, include this in the body: “Purpose ... ” Then fill it out!
Let the attendees know before you even meet what you hope to accomplish. Let them know the outcome you are going for, not just what you want to talk about.
They will come more prepared. Even if they haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about the meeting, they will have at least thought subconsciously about it. They will be more prepared to dive in and offer something constructive.
Another huge benefit is that if you forgot to invite someone who can help you accomplish your purpose, someone else will likely catch it and you will get the right people in the room for the first meeting instead of the followup.
2. State Your Purpose in the First Minute
As you begin your meeting, remind everyone of the purpose you put in the invitation. It is important to remember that everyone in your meeting is just as busy as you are. It is highly likely they were not thinking about your meeting before they walked through the door.
Restating the purpose at the outset gets everyone on task more quickly. Putting the purpose front and center will decrease the likelihood of tangents occurring — and make it easier to reign people in when the tangents do happen.
Occasionally, new information and events will take place between when the meeting was planned and when the meeting takes place. Stating the original purpose gives you — and the rest of the people in the room — the opportunity to alter the purpose if necessary.
3. Embed the Purpose in Your Agenda
I have a love-hate relationship with agendas. I like the fact that an agenda is an attempt to bring some direction to a meeting. I don’t like the fact that, most of the time, it is a reminder there is way more to cover than time will allow. Anyone who cares deeply about the last item or two is immediately frustrated as they know they will eventually hear, “I’m sorry we ran out of time. Let’s start with these last two items when we meet next week.” Time wasted.
However, my biggest issue with agendas is they are almost always a list of topics rather than a list of purposes.
Next time you sit down to write a meeting agenda, make it an agenda of purposes, not topics.
- Change “Q4 update” to “Address three challenges from Q4.”
- Change “Sales discussion” to “Walk-through of new sales cycle.”
- Change “A, B and C clients” to “Decide next steps for A, B and C clients.”
The common denominator for all these tips is purpose. If you haven’t decided on a clear purpose, cancel the meeting! Meetings with a clear purpose are productive. Meetings with a clear purpose have fewer tangents. Meetings with a clear purpose have engaged attendees. Meetings with a clear purpose accomplish something.
In the next post in the Communicating on Purpose series, we will tackle one of the biggest frustrations in almost every workplace: email. We will uncover the secret to writing email that gets read — and responded to!
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About the Author
Keith Ferrin is a husband, father, author, speaker, blogger and founder of the Complete Communication System™. When it comes to communication, his passion is helping people prepare more efficiently, deliver more confidently and land messages more effectively. Keith has been blessed to work with everyone from CEOs to entrepreneurs, small business owners to pastors, and sales professionals to first-time authors.