Best practices for holding effective meetings

According to Erica Loynd (architect at DLR Group, Seattle), “….effective meeting facilitation is a skill, not a talent.”

Yes, I agree that facilitating (a skill) can be learned. But I also think that some people have a natural inclination that allows them to facilitate meetings easily, more so than someone else. And I think it sometimes depends on things like whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Or whether you have good time management skills. Or whether you are comfortable in telling attendees who are having sidebars to stop sidebarring and get back on task with the entire group.

The presentation I spoke of in my last post, Holding Effective Meetings (which Erica presented), offered useful/practical tips:

  • The setting must be appropriate (consider: comfort; table layout allows for collaboration; available tools on hand, whether it’s flip charts or internet connection)
  • Trust (attendees trust each other, and especially trust the meeting lead)
  • Agenda (distributed ahead of time, a means to engage attendees, manage time, be productive)
  • Meeting record/summary (necessary if decisions are to be made; helps establish agenda for next meeting; must be accurate; must be timely—not distributed on the day of the meeting or just before the next meeting; my own rule is the final agenda is distributed two days prior to the meeting)
  • Guidelines (rules of conduct, but don’t call them rules, call them guidelines; arriving on time, speaking out of turn or speaking over others)

Have meeting leaders gotten away from setting meeting guidelines? I don’t even recall if I’ve attended a meeting in which conduct guidelines have been established before or during the meeting.  Well now, wait a minute. When I came on board a large project team, the “dollar rule” was already in place. From what I understand, if you made a snarky remark, or your cell phone rang during the meeting, you owed a dollar. So there were guidelines set (that wasn’t a guideline, mister, that was a rule) for those project team meetings. From what I saw, certain attendees kept a whole bunch of dollar bills in their pocket. (I think they truly enjoyed being called on the dollar rule, and it allowed them to make a snarky remark [and get away with it?], and all they had to do was pay a dollar for that remark. Hey, that’s what it seemed like to me at the time anyway.)

I remember sitting in another meeting and we were brainstorming. One of the attendees would quite often comment on what other attendees said (and the comment was usually a Debbie-downer kind of comment). It was then that I knew that if I was going to lead a meeting in which brainstorming was one of the tools, that I would make sure brainstorming rules (guidelines) were established up front, before the brainstorming began. Because dear reader, brainstorming is a wonderful, wild idea-generating tool, and every comment and contribution should be captured. And no one should be shot down for making a contribution during a brainstorming session.

So….that’s all I had to share in this post. Just a quickie on the presentation I attended, and very well done by Eric Loynd, I might add.

Wait though. It would be cool if you completed this quick survey. I’m curious if conduct guidelines (rules) are still the norm at meetings, or whether no one cares anymore about establishing them for meetings.  Thanks for participating!