Meetings can embrace and create opportunities to air concerns and steer product delivery. The reality is topics often skew and the agenda quickly becomes an afterthought.

Worryingly the real pitfalls come when the agenda begins as an after through and no tangible outcomes are set. This leads to the dreaded “Meeting for the sake of meetings” which no one deep down finds exciting.

An agenda the beginning

Data is meaningless without proper context. Meetings bind context to this data to form information that people find value in. Communicating an agenda should bring focus and steer the conversations to derive an outcome.

The current project I am involved in requires many meetings due to multi-disciplines input but more importantly our dependency around-consuming projects. We form concise agendas for our outcomes which often lead to our “Definition Of Done” (DOD) for each item of work. These quick meetings provide us room to surface technical discussions to peers without providing rationale around each discussion point.

Meetings with an agenda are beneficial and should be intrinsically connected to an outcome. Otherwise, the meeting will only disengage attendants. If the outcome is not either an action or an opportunity to communicate progress, then it is a conversation.

Realistic goals?! Don’t you like email requests…

Opening your email and seeing new meeting invites brings thoughts of interest but also a concern. How many will I impact? Well, that is the problem. Meetings that require actions need engaging focus and to a certain extent, passion. More often than not focus is lost, and you start to realise “What the weather is like” and “I never noticed that there before”, this is dangerous and bluntly not the best use of your time.

At Slate we found making an impact is centered around understanding the problem and surfacing the issues that others do not see/or want to.

Often not communicating leads to wasting hours you do not have. It is down to context and bringing the right people at the right time. We have to improve communication and stop the dreaded mass email attendance. It takes a few people pulled from the focus bubble not to participate in meeting to affect delivery in their respective fields. This effect negatively trickles across the business.

Barrier stopping engaging meetings

Engaging meeting makes the best form of communication. Reaching out with discussions to embrace conversation gives an opportunity to surface topics. Often focusing on one’s work leads to a bubble, people in the team are in the bubble but no one else is. However, if you are engaged it enables two-way discussions.

If you’re counting the squares on the ceiling or not adding any value to the meetings I think then you’re in the wrong meeting or you need to push back.

Taking things off-line, an abrupt phase. However another common problem, topics steering out of agenda and being transformed. This a great opportunity to either timebox this as an outcome or discuss after the meeting with attendants involved. It shifts focus back and facilities meaningful conversations with the right people.

The last barrier, which a frequent offender is the overrun meeting. Its the elephant in the room. If your morning meeting takes 15 minutes for 8 people should one person take 5 minutes, simply no! No one is perfect, yes I too have fallen foul. Tips such as getting bullet-point notes of actions done or doing solves this.

Culture shift and needed change

Perfection is a goal that is outdated and unrealistic. Consistency is key, make small changes and mix it up. This is best shown with Dales Cone of Experience it illustrates the scale of how information is digested at what levels.

This change in approach has a drafting effect around your attendants. If they leave the meeting with an outcome and felt attentive to any actions you set are more likely to be met rather than re-prioritised.

Remember meetings facilitate a need or a change requirement, it is your responsibility to engage from the initial contact through to the meeting follow up, don’t be that person!