Paperless meetings, much more than a green idea!

Effective Meetings: The Ultimate Toolbox

A necessary requirement for organisations that scale is to hold meetings.

We most likely have all experienced ineffective and tiresome meetings. Meetings where you have to go through a never ending pile of papers and documents and that seem to drag on forever. There should be a more effective way to organize meetings, right? Luckily, there are a lot of tools that can help you organize your meeting to make it more effective. These tools can help organizations get more out of a meeting and do it in a more time efficient way. But where do you find these tools? Look further no more. We provide the ultimate toolbox for meeting organizers, uniquely tailored to their specific needs.

So what are meetings for?

They have several functions:

  • They set the goals and focus for the team;
  • Ensure a boost of energy for the office;
  • Motivate team members.

Meetings achieve desired outcomes like the following:

  • A decision;
  • Ideas;
  • Status reports;
  • Communicate something;
  • Make plans.

There are only three good reasons to hold a meeting:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Delivering info
  3. Gathering info

When you clearly identify the purpose of a meeting to both yourself and the people present, all concerned can start to prepare for the meeting.

To run a perfect meeting, we created:

‘Effective Meetings: The Ultimate Toolbox’

How does it work?

  1. Study the basic rules of effective meetings, as layed out in the toolbox.
  2. Pick ideas/experiments and implement them.
  3. Feel free to add to the toolbox or drop tried and tested but failed items as needed.

Quickly jump to:

How to get to better decisions Fewer / shorter meetings What you can do as an attendee Get stuff done. Stop meeting. Technology Extra’s

Tool #1: Restate the goal at the beginning of the meeting

You achieve:

A team that is focused and knows what the meeting will be all about.

Tip: Keep your comments regarding the subject of the meeting to yourself and leave other issues for another time.

Tool #2: Say it in 5 words

How to make your message stick? Say it in 5 words: Today we decide on…’

Stick to the agenda / do not allow scope creep

Scope creep is what happens when changes are made to the scope of a project without any control.

Tool #3: How to prevent scope creep in meetings

  • Make the meeting scope clear when the meeting begins;
  • Secure agreement from the participants about the meeting scope;
  • Know the precise question that the team should be addressing;
  • Focus on context before meetings rather than content;
  • Know the right questions and the proper sequence to ask them.

Tool #4: Plan out five bullet points

Want to stay on subject, but there are many issues that by association pertain to what the meeting addresses?

Plan out five bullet points

  • These will all apply to the different dimensions of the subject, but will keep the scope of what will be discussed in check.
  • No deviating from these 5 bullet points is allowed.

Tip: Use a competent meeting facilitator.

Tool #5: Build real-time agenda based on input from the team

If a meeting facilitator is not aware of all the ins and outs that apply to the subject of the meeting, input from members of the meeting is allowed.

At the start of the meeting members of the team may submit all of their input for discussion points. A real-time agenda is hereby created.

When the agenda is set, no discussion points may be added.

How to structure your agenda

Read these blogs on how to structure your agenda for the perfect meeting:

Start on time

Meetings that do not start on time take longer and are less effective.

Why they are crucial:

  • It promotes productivity A meeting that starts five minutes late will be eight percent less productive.
  • It makes a good first impression Starting on time will convince everyone involved of your dedication to the subject matter and your own punctuality.
  • It shows you value attendant’s time By starting a meeting on time, moderators are showing that they value the time of their attendants. When meetings start and end on time, they build a reputation of competence, respect and professionalism.

Tool #6: Start at odd times so nobody forgets (e.g. 8:37)

This sends a strong but unwritten message about punctuality and purpose. When you say the meeting starts at 8:37, it’s clear you mean exactly 8:37.

Tool #7: Make people sing when late

A couple of minutes late? No mercy. You sing. ‘Chicago – Does Anybody Know What Time It Is’

Tool #8: Lock the door so people cannot come in after the start of the meeting

Limit the number of people, but…. make sure to include the right people:

  • Key decision makers for the issues involved;
  • People with information and knowledge about the topics to be discussed;
  • People who have a responsibility to or a stake in the issues;
  • Those who need to know about the information you have to report in order to do their jobs;
  • Anyone who will be required to implement any decisions made.

Tool #9: Limit redundant managers in meetings

The 10-person rule at Google is based on a fast-moving, start-up culture where work time is precious for each employee. The leaner the invite list > more time for the uninvited to forge ahead with other work.

Tool #10: Jeff Bezos 2 pizza rule

  • The more people there are, the less productive most meetings will be.
  • Most attendants will end up agreeing with each other instead of voicing their own opinions and ideas.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos came up with a solution: the “two pizza rule”: Never have a meeting where two pizzas couldn’t feed the entire group.

Tool #11: Stay on topic

Meeting leaders need to be skilled at ‘redirecting’.

What is redirecting? This is getting meeting attendees back on topic when they stray from the focus of the meeting.

This requires:

  • Awareness of when a meeting is heading off course;
  • Allowing a reasonable amount of time for wayward attendees to get themselves back on track;
  • Action when needed to get the meeting back on track.

Do not forget!

Piece of paper to jot down other topics to be discussed outside of the meeting 

Tool #12: No phones allowed

Have people turn off their phones until the meeting is over. Get everyone’s best attention and thinking so time is utilized most effectively.

Donation when phone rings

When the phone rings, that person puts a pound note into the donation basket.

Tool #13: No note taking on laptops

When you only use a laptop to take notes, you do not absorb new information as well. Typing notes encourages mindless transcription.

No repeat topics (once moved on, always moved on)

Finished a topic and moved on? No turning back to the topic. Save it for after the meeting or for another time.

Tool #14: Everyone has the right to speak freely and point out

To get the most out of a meeting with a lot of expertise present, everyone should be able to speak on a subject, as long as they do not veer off topic.

There should be room to interrupt a speaker if one’s own input adds to the conversation.

Tool #15: “No rehash” Pingpong paddle

Employees indicate to others that a topic has already been addressed by raising the “No Rehash” Ping-Pong paddle.

Tool #16: Strategically schedule the meeting (before lunch time or before a client visit)

Having a set time in mind when a meeting should end is made easier by scheduling it before lunch time, before another meeting or before a client visit.

Tool #17: Use a timer

Using a timer is great for quick huddle meetings, small team meetings or video calls.

Tool #18: £5 in team jar if meeting runs late

This amount should be shared by all of the team and not only the moderator or manager so everyone is involved in keeping the meeting brief and to the point.

Tool #19: Sit down meeting turns into standup as soon as the meeting runs late

The standing posture also keeps every attendant engaged and focused.

Tool #20: Last person to talk > 50 pushups

This helps to keep the meeting short and sweet. One can even increase the number of pushups if the meeting has run for a certain amount of time.

How to get to better decisions

Influence ways of thinking

Tool #21: Connection before content (get people out of their comfort zone)

Building a level of understanding about others in the group provides the confidence that the meeting is a safe place to say openly what each person is really thinking about the issues they are facing together.

How to achieve this?

Do a quick round of introduction

Tool #22: Pretend you have failed

Guy Kawasaki, a business guru and best-selling author, advises business leaders to assemble their team before making critical decisions such as launching a product or service. He suggests seizing these moments to say:

“Let us pretend that our product, our company failed. Now, what are all the possible reasons?”

They may include:

  • Lack of distribution;
  • An unsophisticated sales force;
  • Buggy software;
  • Unreliable cloud services.

The point is to get people imagining everything that could go wrong, so they can take steps to fix problems before they happen.

“Conduct a pre-mortem so that you never have to conduct a post-mortem.”

Tool #23: Get co-workers to laugh to loosen up

How could this add to a more productive meeting? Well, humor can enhance creativity, encourage collaboration and even improve long-term job performance.

Tool #24: Two minute break of silence

Silence is an ideal way to encourage deep thinking and ideas, while conducting a meeting.

Since few of us can think deeply while we’re talking, the two-minute silence break gives a chance to mull over a decision, issue, or stalemate.

Tool #25: Six thinking hats

Each hat represents a different perspective. Each team member wears each hat in turn.

White Hat: Objective facts and figures, used at the beginning of the meeting to establish relevant facts and information about the issue to be discussed.

Red Hat: To get people’s gut reactions to an idea or when you want the team to express their emotions freely.

Black Hat: When you want to get the critical viewpoint of an idea or situation. The ‘devil’s advocate’ hat helps decrease the chances of making a poor decision.

Yellow Hat: Identifies the value of ideas and plans. The Yellow Hat helps counterbalance the judgmental thinking of the Black Hat.

Green Hat: Generates fresh ideas and new directions. This is a very powerful hat that each player needs to wear.

Blue Hat: Sets objectives, outlines the situation, and defines the problem in the beginning of the meeting and returns at the end to summarize and draw conclusions.

Tool #26: Coloring books

Coloring during a meeting helps promote active listening, and is more helpful than multitasking on something like email.

Change environment to change thinking

Tool #27: Play basketball

Play a match of basketball to foster collaboration and creative thinking.

Tool #28: Walking

Walk during a meeting to get the blood flowing and boost your intellectual capacity.

Tool #29: Bring solutions, not problems

Employees who bring solutions play a crucial problem-solving role, take more ownership in the success of your team, and free you up to stay focused elsewhere.

Tool #30: Directly responsible individual (DRI)

At Apple, the DRI’s name will appear on an agenda for a meeting, so everybody knows who is responsible.

“Any effective meeting at Apple will have an action list,” says a former employee.

“Next to each action item will be the DRI.”

Tool #31: Have people agree to act and take responsibility publicly

When a few members of the team are handpicked to act and take responsibility publicly for actions that are decided upon in the meeting, a responsibility to themselves and the team is created. This is a strong motivator.

Tool #32: Take Minutes

Meeting minutes capture the vital information of a meeting – decisions and designated actions. They keep attendants on track by reminding them of their role in a project and clearly define what happened in a group session.

Minutes can be saved and used for reference or background material for future meetings that relate to the same topic.

Distribute minutes

Minutes should be distributed immediately if possible. Not longer than the day of the meeting. Anything longer than that and two problems arise:

  • You start to forget details as do the other attendants.
  • The longer you take to do it, the less likely the minutes will be distributed.

Check out these resources for the best advice on how to take minutes during meetings:

Tool #33: Distribute list of actions

  • Action items usually arise from meetings and should always be clearly documented.
  • Ensure that action items are expressed as full sentences: “Translate a summary of the meeting for AAA” instead of “summary AAA”
  • Ensure that all crucial details are included, such as:
    • Project deadlines;
    • The responsible party;
    • Any ensuing action items that are expected to arise from the original one.

Tool #34: Last 10 minutes: evaluation

  • Leave 5-10 minutes at the end of the meeting to evaluate the meeting; do not skip this portion of the meeting.
  • Have each member rank the meeting from 1-5, with 5 as the highest, and have each member clarify their ranking
  • Have the chief executive rank the meeting last.

Closing Meetings

  • Always end meetings on time and try to end on a positive note;
  • At the end of a meeting, review actions and assignments, and set the time for the next meeting and ask each person if they can make it or not (to get their commitment).
  • Clarify that meeting minutes and/or actions will be reported back to members in at most a week (this helps to keep the energy going).

Fewer / shorter meetings

Tool #35: Meeting audit → analyse calendar to spot useless meetings

  • Define the objective of a meeting. If a meeting has no objective, cancel it.
  • If you don’t have the authority to cancel a meeting, ask the meeting host or all participants, “What is the objective of this meeting?”
  • If the meeting has an objective, but your role in the meeting is not clear, ask the meeting host, “How does my attendance help you achieve the meeting objective?” Or “Is my presence necessary to achieve the objective?”
  • Ask the meeting host to email you a summary of key decisions made at the meeting.

Tool #36: How to get out of a meeting without losing your job

How do you excuse yourself without starting trouble? What is your exit strategy?

Step-by-step

1. Stay focused on your partner

Give the one engaging with you your full attention until the time is right to leave.

2. Plan ahead

If you know that you’re going to leave early, sit close to the boardroom door. This avoids clumsily getting up next to the boss at the head of the table and having to ask people to please move their chairs to let you through.

3. Phony phone call

Fake a phone call and leave with “I just need to quickly sort this out. Please continue without me.”

4. Do not overshare

If you do need the bathroom, you do not necessarily have to tell anyone. Sometimes not oversharing is better. “Please excuse me” and a follow up later if needed.

5. Conflicting schedule

If you can, blame your schedule. You have too many meetings at the same time and need to figure stuff out.

Summing up

  • Don’t underestimate the value of “excuse me” as you leave the room. It avoids over-explaining and leading you into a tangled web of excuses.
  • Get creative with your exit strategies, but keep them simple. When escaping from people, always show them respect. Leave in a respectful, smooth and stealthy way.

Tool #37: Pre-sell big ideas

Leadership guru John Maxwell has written that “the secret to a good meeting is the meeting before the meeting.”

“The meeting before the meeting” is the process of checking in with key players before the larger meeting to gain their buy-in, develop trust, and avoid being blindsided later on.

Ask your executives for 15 minutes of time before the big meeting. Test your thoughts and ideas and hear about their concerns. Make them part of the process so that by the time the big meeting comes, they feel like they have a stake in it.

Your goal in each of these “mini-meetings” is:

  • Test your hypothesis with each key player and reveal any worries and objections he or she may have in order to reduce the probability that your presentation will be derailed.
  • Line each leader up as your backer, before the main meeting takes place.

Step-by-step

Here are some questions to pose to your potential backers about your idea:

  • Does this idea make sense to you?
  • Do you agree with it?
  • Is this a smart way for us to be investing our time and money?
  • Does this align with the initiatives in your area? If not, why?
  • And if it does, will you back me up when I deliver the presentation?

If the answer is “no,” it is better that you know now while you still have a chance to correct course before the big meeting.

Tool #38: Take away chairs

Stand up meetings

A stand-up meeting (or simply “stand-up”) is a meeting in which attendants participate while standing. The discomfort of standing for long periods is intended to keep the meetings short.

Plank meetings

Rules:

  1. Rest on the ground when you are not speaking.
  2. Keep plank position if you are talking.
  3. Take turns to update on what you did, what you plan to do and what you have difficulties with.

Tool #39: Limit meetings to 15 minutes

  • 15 minutes is more than enough time if the meeting has a purpose, tasks are made and assigned, and you keep computers and phones out of the meeting room.
  • The best reason for a 15 minute meeting is because of our attention spans and brain limits.

What you can do as an attendee

Tool #40: Hardstop announcement at beginning of call

A hardstop is the finite ending time of meeting or get together. In a meeting, when the set out time comes, the meeting is over.

“Can we get together on Sunday night, at 7:30 PM, with a HARD STOP at 9:30?”

Tool #41: Take notes

  • Taking notes helps you remember
  • Taking notes sharpens your focus
  • Taking notes is your document of proof
  • Your notes can back you in case your co-worker or boss raises doubts or questions about the items you’ve discussed during the last meeting.
  • Identify side issues
  • Take note of problems afflicting other departments that can affect your work; issues that you might forget or missed had you not been listening actively.

4 Tips to Take Notes Effectively:

  • Use pen and paper
  • Learn shorthand
  • Just highlight the key points
  • Prepare a written report immediately after the meeting

Get stuff done. Stop meeting.

Tool #42: Cancel all meetings

BAN “MEETING”

Try for example briefing, huddle, scrum, brainstorm, forum, check in, time out, heads up: these suggest what the meet is for and how it is going to be run.

Distribute leadership

Distribute the leadership of larger meetings: the host is the person who is responsible for the business outcome, the leader is the person responsible for “driving” the meeting. Get different people to lead the agenda, take notes, keep time and so on. Let the host keep an overview and listen to what is going on.

Focus on one thing

If you have two things to achieve, see if you can design two short meetings around a break – rather than one long one.

Make it an experience

Think of every meeting as an experience, and of everyone taking part as your audience. Make it an experience worth having, or cancel the meeting.

Tool #43: Make meetings optional

The Law of Two Feet: if you choose to attend a meeting, you must either;

  1. Be learning, or
  2. Be contributing.

If you can not do either, you are responsible to get up, leave, and go somewhere where one of those two things will happen.

  1. Make them optional. You will learn very quickly which ones are useless.
  2. Never solve problems in a large meeting. Instead identify the problem and an owner of it, and let them get with whoever they need to outside the meeting. At the next meeting, have them check in to share if it is done.

Tool #44: Make someone responsible for limiting meetings

You give one person full control over when a meeting should end. Give this person a timer.

Tool #45: Organisation-wide time discipline

  • Ban sending emails during a meeting
  • Do not double-book meetings to decide later on which one to attend

Tool #46: Meeting time budget

  • Add up the total number of hours that you and your team spend in meetings every week, and then aim to reduce that time by 10% or 20%.
  • Use conference lines that cut off at a preset time, or conference room doors that lock at the precise moment a meeting begins, so that latecomers are shut out.
  • Avoid time fragmentation. Often, meetings are scheduled with 30 or 60-minute blocks of time between them. Avoid this; it takes people at least 15 minutes to regain focus after an interruption.
  • Schedule meetings back-to-back, so that everyone gets a big block of uninterrupted time each day to concentrate on their actual work.
  • Require authorization from the finance department by making time budgeting part of financial budgets. The person in charge sets a meeting budget as part of the total cost. This has to go through the same approval process as other budgets.

#Tip: Estimate the cost of a meeting with this calculator

Technology

There are a number of tools that make meetings more easy to manage. Here we share a few of them.

Tool #47: Roombot

Meeting Bot works with your work calendar to find availability and book meetings instantly in Slack. You can also instantly find available meeting rooms and anonymously notify people when they’re late for a meeting. Works with Google, Office365, and Exchange. www.meetingbot.io

Tool #48: Use team communication to replace some meetings

Slack is meant for teams and workplaces, can be used across multiple devices and platforms, and is equipped with robust features that allow you to not only chat one-on-one with associates but also in groups. You are able to upload and share files with them too, as well as integrate with other apps and services, such as Skype for video calls, and you can granularly control almost every setting, including the ability to create custom emoji’s. www.slack.com

Ryver is a team communication tool that organizes team collaboration, chats, files, and even emails into a single location, for any size team. www.ryver.com

Skype is software that enables the world’s conversations. Millions of individuals and businesses use Skype to make free video and voice one-to-one and group calls, send instant messages and share files with other people on Skype. You can use Skype on your mobile, computer or tablet. www.skype.com

Tool #49 Basecamp, Redbooth, Trello

Basecamp is a project management app that you can access in your browser and on your phone. It gives you the tools you need to set up to-do’s, a schedule, create and upload documents and files, message and chat with your colleagues, and check in regularly with your group. www.basecamp.com

Redbooth is a web-based collaboration tool. Among its key features are: project organization; create as many projects as necessary to meet your team’s needs, and task management; tasks are organized into task lists under the relevant project. www.redbooth.com

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process. www.trello.com

Extra’s

Tool #50: Positioning of the leader at the table

  1. The boss takes seat No. 1. Often this seat has a higher back or more padding than the other chairs (in other words, a throne). If you occupy seat No. 1, you are declaring yourself the boss.
  2. The “opposing” visitor takes seat No. 2. Occupying this seat communicates that you have a different agenda from the boss and intend to negotiate according to that agenda.
  3. The boss’s allies take seats No. 3 and No. 4. Taking one of those seats is declaring yourself to be closely tied to the boss or whoever has identified him- or herself as the boss by taking seat No. 1.
  4. The visitor’s allies take seats No. 5 and No. 6. If you work for the boss, taking either of those seats is putting yourself in opposition to your boss by implicitly supporting the visitor.
  5. Nonparticipants sit along the wall. When you sit along the wall, you literally don’t have “a seat at the table” and are therefore expected to keep silent. Seat No. 7 is for the boss’s admin or note taker. Seat No. 8 is for the visitor’s admin or note taker.
  6. Seat No. 11 and those nearby are the “exit row.” Sit here if you know you’re going to be leaving the meeting early and want to depart without making a big deal about it.
  7. Seats No. 9 and No. 10 (and those alongside) are neutral. Sitting here doesn’t make any particular statement, unless the meeting is for working on departmental issues, in which case sitting at No. 9 puts you in implicit opposition to whoever is sitting at No. 10.
  8. Seat No. 12 and those nearby are the “peanut gallery.” Sit along this wall if you know you’re not going to be contributing to the meeting but will be present throughout.

More at : Where to sit at a conference table

Tool #51: Most senior people speak last

Advantages:

  1. It gives all personality types a chance
  2. By growing other leaders, you are able to focus on higher-level initiatives
  3. It raises confidence in your team
  4. It drives the company in the direction you want to go

Tool #52: Hold a Q&A at the end. No questions?→ stare-off

(to envoke questions people otherwise would not dare to ask)

  • If there are no initial questions, look around and stare at people until the first couple of questions come out.
  • Always plan time at the end of a meeting for a Q&A. It will get everyone on the same page and stop annoying group follow up emails.

Conclusion

With ‘Effective Meetings: The Ultimate Toolbox’, there is absolutely no need to feel intimidated by any meeting you will have in the future. Do you have any suggestions to add to the toolbox? Send us an email and help us keep our toolbox up-to-date! You can also download our e-Book!