Thursday, 9 July 2015

Meetings that Don’t Go Anywhere

I’ve written about meetings before and I’m sure I will again; that’s because we have meetings all the time, and I’m not just talking about workplace meetings.

We have meetings with family to discuss holiday plans, with neighbours to discuss street parties, with builders to discuss their over-inflated estimates, with friends to discuss the next get-together.

We have so many meetings  in the course of a week, we don’t usually realise that they actually are meetings and that’s because a lot of them go really smoothly with few hiccups.

Let’s look at what makes a meeting go well: everyone knows why they are there; everyone has a vested interested in things getting resolved quickly; people listen to each other and all opinions and points of view are considered and debated; there are no hidden agendas lurking in the undergrowth; disagreements get sorted without acrimony; people are honest about what’s going on for them.

Meetings that go well are often quicker too.

Meetings that don’t go well seem to drag on and on and on.

Here are some tips to speed up your meetings and get to resolutions quicker:

Stick to the agenda.  Whatever the meeting – business or personal - if you are trying to get agreement on something, you need to get people focused so that decisions can be reached. It’s very easy to wander off an agenda with side conversations, distractions, gossip. 

Ignore the game players.  It’s also really easy to get drawn into someone else’s little games.  

Suddenly you find yourself having a heated debate about something that shouldn’t even be on the table. You can avoid such confrontations by saying something along the lines of, “Interesting point.” And then move right along.

Inject Humour.  When things seem to be getting bogged down and it’s all getting rather lethargic and ‘heavy’ a little levity can go along way. I’m not talking about the humour that’s a distraction, more the kind of humour that states the obvious and lightens the atmosphere.

Make concrete suggestions.  Sometimes I’m aware of a ‘politeness thing’ where people feel everyone should have their say or everyone has to agree before things can move on.  There’s something quite satisfying about tying things up, drawing some conclusions and then suggesting how to move things forward. Even if it creates a stir, something will have changed.  Keep returning to the suggestions till someone comes up with other suggestions. 

The point is to keep things active.

We do need meetings in our lives; we don’t need endless meetings that go ‘round and ‘round with no conclusions.

There’s always something you can do to improve a meeting that’s dragging on. 


Check out Impact Factory’s range of Facilitation & Better Meetings, Leadership and Communication Skills Training.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

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