Start meetings with a bang (not a bore)


Start meetings with a bang (not a bore)

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Meetings can and should have impact – here’s how you can hook people from the start


Meetings have gained a bit of a bad reputation. It’s not their fault. But poorly planned, back-to-back, lengthy get-togethers that fail to achieve concrete results can have a negative effect on a team’s morale. Executive assistants and others tasked with running effective meeting agendas have a lot to contend with – particularly during busy times, when everyone just wants to get on with their work (or just wants to be somewhere else) and they’ve been burned by pointless meetings before.

However, it is possible for people to leave a meeting equipped with useful new information, renewed energy and a sense of time well spent. There are plenty of hacks for taking control of a meeting space so that it delivers what it’s supposed to, removing the boredom and frustration people are anticipating. Here, we talk strategy for making meetings amazing.

Find your why

Think about a one-hour meeting as an event that you’re inviting people to. What would make them want to attend? Just as you may need to entice people to attend a cocktail reception or a team-building day, treat meetings as something you need to sell to people – could you add an unexpected enhancement? If you can’t appeal to their sense of excitement, how about their practicality? How can you communicate exactly why this will be a useful hour of their day? For example: “We need to brainstorm for this pitch to meet this deadline, on a date where everyone is in the office. Pizza will be provided.” Use your “why” to formulate a meeting agenda – a list of items that needs to be covered, or unanswered questions – and include these, in bullet points (no more than four) in your meeting e-invite. This give people time to prepare and think about discussion topics ahead of time.

Don’t have too many “whys” (this is a common mistake). As soon as you try to kill too many birds with one stone, meetings become diluted and irrelevant to more people. And, if you can’t think of a “why”, then does this meeting really need to happen? If it’s about communicating information, could it be solved by an email that people can read and absorb when they have a spare moment?

Find the right setting 

Be choosy about meeting space. You’ll need somewhere distraction-free, with privacy for people to speak openly and share ideas, high-speed Wi-Fi and plug sockets, soundproofing and a professional setting that inspires the right state of mind. Make a private meeting room booking rather than leaving it to chance. And arrive early at the space to set it up for maximum impact – have copies of a bullet-pointed meeting agenda, any hand-outs or documents needed, stationery, paper and healthy snacks out on the table, with a pre-prepared PowerPoint (if needed) set up and ready to go as soon as the meeting is due to start.

State your purpose

When the meeting begins, don’t just read through the meeting agenda (that’s boring). Instead, remind everyone of the “why”. Why should they be sitting up and paying attention right now? Why should they care? A stellar turn of phrase is: “The purpose of this meaning is… and by the end, we will have…” Simple but golden. Open the meeting by clearly stating the reason everyone is there, and what the outcome needs to be (have it written somewhere in the space so that you can keep referring back to it). Not only does this engage people with the meeting’s objective, it also appears professional and shows you’ve considered how to make the session productive. Plus it gives you a point of reference for when things steer off topic. Factor in time for any necessary introductions and ground rules, but keep it brief.

Get everyone involved

The sooner you can get attendees feeling involved in the meeting discussion, the better your chance of engaging them. Kick things off with a question. Something like: “If we are going to be successful today, what topics do we need to talk about?” Make sure everyone feels heard, and engage quieter members of the team who may be waiting to be invited to speak. Frequently using the words “you” and “your” has an empowering effect on attendees, and they feel more able to steer the meeting and offer input.


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