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5 Principles of Highly Effective Meetings

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What are meetings good for? Countless professionals ask themselves this very question everyday. The frustration around meetings is a consequence of failing to abide by some very basic principles. What follows are the principles, purposes, and practices of excellent meetings:

Principle #1: Use the meeting for those things that would benefit from bringing people together or can't be resolved without convening.

Purpose: Progress

Practice:

  • When determining whether to call a meeting, ask yourself: Can the purpose of the meeting more efficiently and effectively be achieved without convening? If the answer is yes, hold off on meeting.

Principle #2: Use the meeting to provide participants with a chance to express their opinions and be heard.

Purpose: Recognition

Practices:

  • Start the conversation with a “clearing” (i.e., Have everyone go around and say what’s on their mind without soliciting comments.)
  • Reiterate what participants say and check for understanding.

Principle #3: Use the meeting to build rapport and trust among the group members.

Purpose: Trust

Practices:

  • Have participants make introductions and describe what they hope to achieve by being there.
  • Maintain eye contact and refer to participants by their names, as opposed to “he said” or “she said…”
  • Create meeting norms (e.g., voting procedures as well as agreement to not comment on people’s “clearings.”)
  • Give people space to talk (see 2nd principle) and build on what participants say.
  • Express gratitude and thank the participants for their contributions.

Principle #4: Use the meeting to learn more efficiently and effectively than each participant could on his/her own.

Purpose: Learning

Practice:

  • Encourage advocacy and inquiry (i.e., Encourage participants to advocate their views and to invite other participants to inquire as to their line of reasoning and supporting evidence.)

Principle #5: Use the meeting to develop actionable strategies.

Purpose: Action

Practices:

  • Employ the OARRs method (i.e., Decide on the Outcome, Agenda, Roles, and Rules prior to or at the start of the meeting.)
  • Provide crystal-clear directions (e.g., Avoid double-barreled questions.)
  • Eliminate barriers to success (e.g., Rather than “reinventing the wheel,” build upon templates that already exist.)
  • Write up action items and include "Who, what, by when" (i.e., Who is responsible? What is he/she responsible for? And by what date should it be completed?)

What do you think are the essential elements of an effective meeting?

Image via iurii/shutterstock.com

Sam Nayman has a passion for organizational and personal transformation. He currently pursues this passion as a Leadership, Team, and Organizational Excellence Analyst. Prior to this role, Sam worked with Third Sector Capital Partners, which arranges Social Impact Bonds, an innovative social sector performance-based contract that brings together government, nonprofits, and philanthropists. He prepared himself for these jobs as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs and as a Social Policy major at Northwestern University.

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