We know it shouldn’t be like this, but sometimes we find ourselves in a meeting which is ill-defined, purposeless and chaotic.
Maybe it’s been called at short notice. Maybe everyone thought someone else was doing the thinking about the agenda and aims. Maybe the organisation has a culture of always being "too busy" to pay attention to planning meetings.
For whatever reason, you’re sitting there and the conversation has somehow begun without a structured beginning.
This is the moment to use the five minute meeting makeover!
Using your best assertiveness skills, ask that everyone just pause a moment to check the agenda before you get going properly.
The makeover questions
Here’s your checklist of questions:
What do we need to cover in this meeting?
What’s our end time?
Who will chair / run the meeting?
Who will take the note of decisions and actions?
Who’s here (useful if not everyone knows each other, or it’s a telecon)?
An agreed, structured meeting plan
Using flip chart or white board, record the answers to these questions. See the pictures for a mind-mapping way to do this that I’ve found really effective.
I always begin by putting in the fixed points: that there will be an opening and a closing.
Next, establish the aims. Keep the 'what do we need to cover' answers at the level of ‘topic’ at this stage e.g. “product launch timescale”, “expanding the team”, “budget”.
Then, for each item, ask the group and then write up what it is that the group needs to do in relation to that item. Is it to share updates? To generate ideas? To choose between options? Being clear about the task(s) that the group needs to accomplish in relation to each item really helps.
When all the ‘items’ that need to be covered are written up, ask what order they need to be taken in. Number them in this order. This might be a good point to set timings for each item.
The final ‘item’ is the closing conversation. This should cover:
Confirming any decisions and actions that have been agreed.
Agreeing who will circulate the note of the meeting, to whom and by when. This might also include identifying specific people who need a personal briefing.
Agreeing the date of the next meeting (if one is needed).
Reviewing the meeting. I like to use a simple three-stage round of ‘To what extent did we meet our aims? What helped? What got in the way?'
Now you can begin the meeting! When a task or whole item has been complete, give yourselves a happy, congratulatory tick.