Meetings I love to attend !!


If the title of the post motivated you to read further, more likely than not, you have had your share of meetings which bored you to death. Either you were one of the organizers or the participants, but the way typical meetings are run, its a drag for many. Too often, meetings are driven by presentations. They are packed with enough slides to run the meeting ten times over. We have the background story slides,  main content slides, then the backup slides and then probably some more.

When you have so much content packed in and you want to run through them all, will the discussion be focused? Will this discussion result in actionable items? Most likely not in my understanding. Contrast this to meetings we run in a real crisis. There are generally no presentations, quick discussions and fast decisions / actions. Why so ? The difference I think lies in the sense of purpose. In a crisis, everyone is exactly clear why they are getting into that meeting – a clear objective that guides the discussion.

The Power of Three

The topics of meetings is so interesting and maybe someone could even do a PH.D on this. Nevertheless, in the spirit of KISS, here is my take of how to have effective meetings. For a meeting that brings value, three questions need to be answered very clearly – both by the organizer and the participants. Two before joining the meeting and one at the end of the meeting, before you close.

Lets take a look at the organizer’s first:

What is the outcome I expect out of this meeting

You need to have a clear problem definition or expected outcome. This also needs to be articulated well, so that the right people will be motivated to join. In today’s busy work environment, executives are faced with conflicting meetings. Having a clear unambiguous agenda makes everyone’s life so much easier – not to mention increasing the participation in your meeting. This also helps the participants to clearly understand what preparation they might have to do before joining.

Is everyone on the invitation list a contributor?

Are the people on the list really contributors or “for your information” only. The latter would be more than happy to get notes from meeting than join a meeting in which they have nothing to contribute. It saves their time and yours – as discussions in smaller groups with the most relevant people are often more focused and productive.

What do we do next?

There is no point in discussing and debating till the very end. Last few minutes need to be spent summarizing the key points discussed and the next plan of action. As an organizer you need to make sure everyone goes out of the meeting with clear understanding of what is expected of them next.

And now the questions for the participants,

Do I understand the purpose of this meeting?

You need to really ask yourself if you understand the objectives of the meeting. That is the first step to answer the next question. Also, if the answer to both the questions is in affirmative, it will help you prepare for the meeting.

Am I really required for this meeting?

You may understand the purpose, but are u going to be a contributor or decision maker. Maybe the meeting does not need someone at your level, but a junior or a senior person or a colleague who has more knowledge on the topic. The senior person  and the colleague decision is easy because you know what you cannot do, but the junior person is not easy. You could take part and maybe contribute as well, but should you ? Where possible, you must delegate and empower your team to handle things, freeing your time to do things higher up the value chain.

What am I supposed to do next?

Make sure you have clearly understood what is expected of you as a next course of action, if there is any. Leaving a meeting without this crucial information means you will handle the tasks sub-optimally – inviting more meetings.
Using the power of three wisely helps achieve the real purpose of meetings – move things forward. Those are the ones I love to attend and think most others too.

So when are you running your next meeting with the power of three?

Hrishikesh Karekar

Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..