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Successful Meetings Start with Why

The new year is traditionally the time to make personal resolutions. It’s also a great time to reflect on your work practices. How can you be more effective in your work life? We suggest examining your meeting practices, an area in which a few minor changes can have big results. One easy practice you can implement today is to follow the rule of WHY: Why are you having a meeting? Figuring this out beforehand can save you hours of time in the future.

Knowing Why Helps You Know What You’ve Accomplished

It’s hard to measure if a meeting was productive if you have not explored the why, or objective, of the meeting. The why exists to shape what will happen at the meeting and to clarify a goal to achieve. If your meeting achieves the why, it has been successful. Remember that great meeting conversation is not the same as accomplishing an objective. Accomplishments move things forward.

On board, but not sure how to start?

Below are six common categories of meeting objectives. Note that many meetings have elements from multiple categories, but there is usually an overarching objective that you’ll want to highlight.

Turn Objectives into Outcomes

Now that you’re familiar with the six meeting objectives, you need to turn them into concrete desired outcomes to achieve by the end of the meeting. What exactly will you decide? What will be aligned? What ideas will you have generated? Be specific about how your objectives will look so that you will know if you’ve achieved success. Here are some examples:

Main Objective: DECIDE

Context: Vendor Selection Meeting Desired Outcomes: - Agreed upon set of criteria for vendor selection - Final decision on the vendor we’re going to work with

Main Objective: ALIGN

Context: Weekly Team Alignment Meeting Desired Outcomes: - Shared alignment across workstreams - Safe space for team-wide questions and discussion

Main Objective: IDEATE

Context: Social Media Campaign Brainstorming Meeting Desired Outcomes: - A list of ideas about twitter hashtags we can use - A list of social media channels we are going to leverage

Main Objective: PRODUCE

Context: Product Redesign Working Session Desired Outcomes: - 2-3 low-fidelity prototypes based on new customer insights - Presentation of insights and solutions for leadership team’s review

Main Objective: PLAN

Context: Strategic Planning Meeting Desired Outcomes: - Key business milestones in 2016 - Main goals for each department - A list of resources required - A list of potential risks and risk management approaches

Main Objective: CONNECT

Context: Sales Engagement Meeting Desired Outcomes: - Stronger relationship between potential customer and sales manager - A list of customer’s requirements and concerns - Next conversation scheduled

What’s Next?

After you’ve spent a few minutes thinking about what you want to accomplish in your meeting, selecting your main meeting objective, and specifying the desired outcomes, you need to share your objective with your meeting participants. Do this through the calendar invite, meeting agenda, and verbally at the meeting. Keep our infographic accessible as you plan for each meeting to help clarify whether you’re meeting to decide, align, ideate, produce, plan or connect.

If you’re a meeting participant, you can also ask about the meeting’s objective if your meeting leader has not provided one. Ask, “What do we want to achieve in this meeting?” or “At the end of this meeting, what will be different?”

Ready to make this meeting change now? Here’s a challenge: Identify the WHY for all your meetings over the next two weeks, and tell us what difference it makes. If you find that it doesn’t make a positive impact, we’ll meet with you for a free phone consultation to help figure out why.

Want to learn more actionable tips to advance your meetings? Follow Meeteor’s Twitter hashtag #MeeteorTip to find more quick and easy best practices.


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