The more senior and influential you are in business, the more of your time is spent in meetings. It's not just inevitable, it's fundamental to your job. Leaders lead. That's what you do. Your role is to inspire, motivate and empower the people who design, make, ship and sell within your organisation. And you do this by listening and talking with them, face-to-face, through meetings.
Meetings with customers. Meetings with suppliers. Meetings with front-line staff and managers. Or maybe just informal meetings - conversations around the office. You spend most of your time in meetings of some form or other. So surely “doing meetings” should be something you're absolutely great at, shouldn't it? But when was the last time you really thought about that? How are you developing your own and your team's ability to “do great meetings”?
A great meeting is not just an efficient one – with concise information, focused discussions and clear actions – that's basic functionality. A great meeting is one where the attendees are inspired, engaged and motivated, and one that they leave clear on the business direction, empowered to deliver their contribution, and focused on the specific things they need to do to achieve the business goals.
So what does it take to make a great meeting that inspires, motivates and empowers?
1. Open with a wow
If the first thing that happens in a meeting is a bland review of last week's actions, the energy just flows out of the room. Take a minute, pick up on something interesting that happened, in the business or in the market. Spark interest, engage conversation, but avoid a niche topic that's only interesting to a select clique – and yes, that includes football.
2. Listen with your eyes
Listen to what people say but learn to observe the way they say it, and the behaviours that appear around the table as others talk. Draw out the subtext behind the discussions to understand the true landscape in the organisation.
3. Close with clarity
Allow debate to run, make sure people share their views, and let them know they've genuinely been heard. But whether it's through diktat, a clear consensus, or a specific action to resolve differing views, it's imperative to ensure every discussion closes with clarity.
4. Deliver the speech
We can't all be Martin Luther King, but you can share your vision and ambition for the business in a way that energises people and makes them want to share it. If you struggle as the great orator, just work up a handful of variants, finesse them, and use them at opportune times – it will become more natural soon enough. If you have six meetings a day, 46 weeks of the year, that's over 1,300 opportunities to engage your vision and inspire those around you. Don't throw them away.
5. Finish on a high
The feeling that people leave a meeting with, is the one that sticks, and the one that colours their recollection of the whole event. Furthermore, factual recall from a meeting tends to be limited to the first few minutes and the last few minutes, so it's essential that the closing moments of a meeting encapsulate the things you want the attendees to take away. That could be top 3 priorities, key learnings, a sense of excitement or a “yes we can” mindset. Whatever you want the outcome to be, you need to use the closing minutes of every meeting to make sure those outcomes are realised. It might be as simple as asking everyone “do you think we can do this?”
Face it, meetings are the majority of what you do. What could you and your team change to ensure do them not just functionally, but brilliantly?