Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turn Tough Meetings into Successful Outcomes With an Excellent Plan and Meeting Kickoff That Creates Focus

Picture yourself in a meeting room.  You arrive early and people start trickling in.  It’s a few minute pass while you all   Who will do the most talking?  Who will be THAT GUY who won’t agree with anything. Or THAT GIRL who won’t stop talking even though nothing relevant is being said.

This is how things start in many of your meetings.  Put aside the bliss of the “status” meeting where you just sit and consume information.  That’s not the meeting we are talking about.  We are talking about the meeting that really needs people to express incredible creativity. The meeting where people need to solve those intangible problems that people keep saying, “we should do that some day.” 

Energy and time are needed to solve tough problems in a meeting.  Actually you need ENERGY and TIME and FOCUS.  With the proper start of each meeting you have a chance to give participants a turbo boost of all three of those things.


Energy comes from expressing a goal and instilling into others the sense of urgency to reach the goal. 

In a previous article “Change Your Meetings and Change Your Life,” I introduced Better Meeting Magic, a way to change the culture and productivity of a team, department, division or company that embodies the spirit of collaboration, inclusiveness and focus.

Then in a subsequent article, "Improve Your Focus and Improve Your Team's Performance in Meetings", recall that Planning Is Indispensable because you have created a runway to achieve high altitude performance during your meeting.  You created a meeting GOAL.  You included the GOAL in the invitation. And now you are going to paste it on the wall in the biggest font you can find.

This is step 2 "Opening" in the Better Meeting Magic.   You will open a meeting with some administrative tasks, setting expectations and preparing the participants for an excellent collaborative experience.

Tip #1: Post the Meeting Goal for High Visibility

On an 11”x17” paper print “Goal:  Decide on the Marketing Strategy and Create a List of Step to Achieve It”.  You can also write on a flip chart or even on whiteboard. It must stay as a focal point for the whole meeting, so make sure whatever surface you use to present the goals stays visible and does not get erased.  Make it public so everyone can see it and read it. You might need to revisit the goal during the session. 

Tip #2: Post Meeting Rules for Everyone to See

Also on an 11”x17” paper print “Rules: …”.  Same operating principles apply to the Rules sheet as applied to the Goals sheet.  Make it visible and keep it posted throughout the duration of the meeting.

Reiterating and publishing the goals ENERGIZES the participants because they know that this meeting will not waste time and that achieves the criteria of successful meeting key #1.  A goal also FOCUSES the participants and achieves the criteria of successful meeting key #2.  And if you start on TIME and end on TIME, you will achieve the criteria of successful meeting key #3.


Allocating the correct amount of time to a meeting is essential and must be part of the planning process.  But now that you are in the meeting, you have to keep yourself and the whole party on track to achieve the goals. Part of this journey is starting on time. The end of this journey will be better appreciated if it ends on time as well.


FOCUS is the essential ingredient to make a meeting work and you’ve started off with right foot forward if you’ve posted the Goal(s) and Rule(s) and started on time.  The rest of the meeting is going to be better because you know your purpose.  Just like an aircraft flying from Los Angeles to New York that will fly slightly off course 99% of the time, you too will continue to adjust the course of the meeting ever so slightly when you see things getting off track.

Focus! Focus! Focus!

Put time into understand the purpose of the meetings. Then post Goals and Rules.  Then monitor and gently correct.

Tip #3: Make a Parking Lot for Off Topic Ideas

I almost forgot the Parking Lot.  This is a jewel and you cannot forget to put this up on the wall as well.

In order to keep the meeting on track, explain that you have a Parking Lot and put notes into that space. Write on whiteboards or flipcharts or post sticky notes for any items that don’t fit into the context of the meeting, but are burning issue for some of the participants.  Be sure to follow-up on this items.

Do you have an interesting story about how a meeting went so off course?  Please write a comment and share your story.