Three Questions That Lead to Better Meetings

Posted 03.15.2022

The one thing that I think all of my clients agree on is that they’re sick of meetings. That tracks back to the quantity of meetings they have in a day or a week – way too many, and to the quality of the meetings they attend – too often, they’re tortuous and inconclusive. In other words, a painful waste of time.

There’s a lot out there about how to run a good meeting so I’m not really going to get into that here. Instead, I want to offer three questions that anyone who is considering calling a meeting should ask themselves before they send out invitations. These questions are based on my own experience as well as a lot of what I’m hearing from clients about what makes the difference between a good meeting and a bad one.

Herewith, three questions that lead to better meetings.

What’s the Point?  – One of my favorite tweets I’ve seen in the two years that we’ve all been on Zoom was something along the lines of “Thank you so much for calling a 90-minute meeting that could have been an email.” Snarky yes, but sadly all too true in many cases. Before you send that invitation, ask yourself, “What’s the point of this meeting? Does it really need to happen or could we handle the decision making or information sharing in some other way?” Over time, it’s natural to get into a reflexive pattern of behavior without stopping to question, “Is this behavior really necessary?” Stopping to ask, “What’s the point of this meeting?” can eliminate a lot of pointless meetings.

What’s the Goal? – My biggest pet peeve is meetings that don’t have a clearly stated goal as in, “By the end of this meeting, we should have hashed out a, b, and c or decided on x, y and z.” Way too many meetings don’t have any stated goals or objectives. Without a clear goal or objective, how can you possibly know what you’re coming together to do? Without a clear goal or objective, how will you know when it’s time to end the meeting other than you’ve run out of time and/or exhausted everyone in the meeting? Before you send out that invitation, please, please, please get clear on the goal of the meeting and put it in the invitation and at the top of the agenda (you have one of those, right?), so everyone knows what they’re there to accomplish.

What’s the Process? – This question is a little bit more nuanced than the first two because there’s more to consider. As you think about the process you’ll need to run an effective meeting, I suggest starting with getting clear about three more questions:

  • What do you want the people in the meeting to think?
  • How do you want them to feel?
  • What do you want them to do?

If you have some clarity around your answers to those questions, you’re better positioned to design a process for running a meeting that leads to those outcomes. As you design the process, consider factors like engagement, pace, facilitating productive conversation, gathering input, and, this above all, making a decision so you don’t have to have yet another meeting.

OK, you can probably tell that I had a little bit of a cathartic experience while writing this. Perhaps you did while reading it. Sometimes it’s just helpful to get your ya-ya’s out. If you’re already asking and acting on these three questions, good on ‘ya and thank you for your approach. If there’s something here you hadn’t thought of before, then please pick a point or two to experiment with and see what difference it makes. And, if you’re working with someone who could benefit from asking one or more of these three questions, please feel free to share.

Happier meetings, everyone!

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