Last week, I co-presented a Guidestar webinar with Andrea Kihlstedt on the topic of healthy and productive meetings who talked about the basics for making meetings highly effective. I spoke about standing and walking meetings. This post shares some reflections and additional resources about both topics.
We all have lived through that awful conference call or equally horrendous in person meeting. Andrea gave an awesome presentation with some great frameworks and tips on planning and facilitating productive meetings to avoid death by meeting. She started off with some statistics that the average professional attends 13.7 meetings per week and estimates that half of these sessions are a huge waste of time! If we pay attention to designing good meetings, we’ll be happier in the end.
So, what is an effective meeting anyway? The hallmarks are mutual understanding, full participation, clear and specific outcomes, and shared responsibility. Many times meetings fail because there is not a clear reason to have a meeting – so Andrea suggested, “Consider not meeting.” Is scheduling a meeting just part of our addiction with busyness?
Another way to make your meetings more productive is to flip the model. Like the flipped classroom model in education, you ask participants to read the reports ahead of time so you can spend more time on discussion versus presentation. This makes the meeting more interactive, and interesting for all participants.
She gave us a great visual showing the anatomy of an meeting – the stages you need to go through for an effective meeting. Planning or design comes first. You need an agenda, time, location, background reading, and participants. At the actual meeting, you start with an icebreaker to get people thinking about the topic. Then you are ready to tackle confirming the topic before combustion, which is the discussion and work around meaning-making and decisions. Finally, you identify next steps and follow up. She also created a useful planning check list.
Another point that Andrea made was “Start on time, end on time.” Seems pretty basic, but how many times do you go to meeting that starts 15 minutes late and ends late, making you late for your next meeting. This is probably a larger cultural issue of organizations scheduling too many back-to-back meetings. When do we get any work done? Also, many times we go to our default of booking a 1 hour meeting, and if we’re done sooner than an hour, we feel this obligation to stretch the time to the full hour. Why not end the meeting early? In addition, we should always question our assumption of the need for a one hour meeting, why not book in 30 minute or 45 minute meeting intervals? Google Calendar has an efficiency option that creates a default booking time of 50 minutes for meeting, leaving you ten minutes for notes or to get to the next meeting.
There is also something call the “Peak Rule” which means ends your meeting on a strong note and people will feel good about it. She also shared two absolutely useful tips that are easy to into practice for meetings: 1) Calculate your rightful air time. In other words, divide the total amount of meeting time meeting by the number of people and don’t speak for more than that amount time – and 2) look people in the eye.
There were tons of questions in general about meetings, many about how to change an organization’s meeting culture. Thinking about it, who doesn’t want to have better meetings? Maybe starting with a survey to assess how effective people feel meetings are and consciously changing them for the better one meeting at time. I’ll be thinking and writing more about this in future posts, so stay tuned.
Walking and Standing Meetings: Equipment and Tools
I spoke about walking and standing meetings – and the topic of course generated some questions about tools and equipment. On Facebook, Jeremiah Owyang started a thread on standing desks that was reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode about Kramer’s Coffee Table Book. I picked through the discussion for some of the gems to share.
But first, (wait for this) using a standing desk can help you shed some pounds!
Jeremiah raved about this inexpensive laptop stand that transforms any surface into a standing desk because it allowed you customized the height. Also recommended was an adjustable stool, so you could stand and sit for short intervals. There are many options for standing desks, from fancy, sleek ones that have electronic adjustable height to the IKEA hack.
If you are standing, your feet will get sore – so investing in a soft padded mat is useful. While some people have graduate to treadmill desks, another options is this surfboard like device called the “level” that lets you make some movements while working. You can read more here.
The Ergonomics of Standing
I had wondered what the ergonomics of standing were and Jeremiah shared this diagram. Heidi Ketroser Massey shared some really useful links, including these exercises to help you undo the muscle damage of sitting and these easy stretches.
The big question about walking meetings: How do you take notes? I bring along a moleskine and pen to jot down notes or sometimes I use an iphone recording app called “Capture Audio.”