As a meeting facilitator, people always ask how to run a good meeting. There’s not one easy answer to run a good meeting. Instead there are a variety of factors to make your meeting better, more successful and more effective.
A foundation in how to run a good meeting
First, it’s important to remember that it’s not that most people have never learned to run a good meeting – it’s that most people have never learned to run a meeting, at all. As a result, meetings are run by people who don’t have training about how to do it. It’s weird because for the amount of hours that meetings represent in an organization – we somehow exempt them as a skill people should learn. We expect that employees will have years of training in their core competency – building bridges, writing code, curing diseases, etc. – but we just expect that people will know how to lead meetings. If it was something that hardly ever happened, it would make sense. But we want employees to run a good meeting every day, maybe two or three times per day. How many thousands of hours do employees spend in meetings – without having any trainings in them?
So, the first logical step in answering how to run good meetings is to give employees the benefit of some training – any training! – in how to do that. Teach them. Support them. A few hours of training can pay huge dividends week after week and year after year. In fact, when it comes to hiring new employees and then training, onboarding and orienting them to the new organization, include meeting training. This goes double for those in managerial tracks.
A checklist to run a good meeting revolves around SPAA
Surroundings: What is your environment like? While a drab, windowless room isn’t going to be what necessarily makes a good meeting, it doesn’t help. Think about spaces that are naturally more invigorating. If you can’t score a great conference room, this might be your cafeteria or an off-site meeting over lunch. And don’t be wedded to the room with the grand conference table and high-end A/V setup. Running a good meeting often just needs chairs and a big table or complicated projector setup don’t add to the content of the meeting.
Prep: Running a good meeting often comes down to preparation. It need not be hours and hours. But a meeting won’t work if you have the wrong people there and there’s no purpose or guiding agenda. People want to know why they’re there.
Activities: This is where meeting facilitators tend to shine versus people without a background in meeting facilitation. Running a good meeting tends to depend on the leader doing more than asking people around a table for ideas; it’s more than presenting a deck of slides and asking for questions. Meetings need not be rigid, but they benefit from structure and a guiding hand. There are tons of techniques about how to brainstorm in a group or decide on a course of action or identify potential roadblocks. There are numerous books and libraries of research. Yet, for the most part, meetings fall back on the same old dull formats that don’t result in good meetings.
Action: Something should happen as a result of a meeting. A typical knock against an otherwise good meeting is that nothing happened at the end of it. To run a good meeting means to end have something to show from that meeting.