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10 secrets to create meetings that people WANT to attend

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How to make your meetings interesting and productive

 Without a doubt you have been guilty of rolling your eyes when being invited to yet another meeting, thinking to yourself that it would simply waste your time, that you had better things to do and coming up with an excuse to get out of it. Or maybe you are a repeat offender, you yourself guilty of setting up unproductive meetings that nobody wants to attend?

Unbelievable, the average executive spends 18 hours a week in meetings, and unfortunately, many of them constitute a great deal of wasted time and money. (If you are interested in how much they cost exactly, try this calculator by HBR: https://hbr.org/2016/01/estimate-the-cost-of-a-meeting-with-this-calculator ).

Of course, meetings are an important part of business and have their place, but they must be conducted efficiently to be warranted. Meetings are warranted if they boost productivity and efficiency. You know that your meetings are successful, if attendees are on the same page and aware of what should be done so that even the most challenging tasks can be accomplished.

“You will never see eye-to-eye if you never meet face-to-face.” - Warren Buffett


Following are the 10 secrets that you must implement and follow diligently if you want to make your meetings matter:

Meeting Secret #1 - Start with the end in mind

Straight at the beginning of the meeting, establish a clear objective (in positive language) that everybody agrees on (common goal). This will help to lead the discussion into the right direction, like a compass. You might also want to take a moment to explain how the meeting will run, especially when there are a few new people attending.


Meeting Secret #2 - Use the meeting time wisely

Streamline your meetings, and keep them to the point. Start meetings on time, and do not spend time recapping for latecomers. Prepare an agenda that covers factors like priorities, results, participants (only the once that are essential – the others can be briefed via email!), sequence and timing. Take offline those items or discussions that can be completed outside the meeting. Appoint somebody to take minutes (make sure it isn’t always the same person) which are distributed within 24 hours.


Meeting Secret #3 - Attend meetings with an open mind

Attending meetings with a mindset of curiosity and a willingness to receive feedback (the breakfast for champions) will create a relaxed learning environment. Encourage quiet and shy people to share their opinions and ideas, so that you get input from everybody, not only the people who have a lot to contribute and are eager.


Meeting Secret #4 - Listening is key

Too often people are caught up in their own world and focus purely on how they can defend their actions. So, do not over prepare yourself for upcoming meetings. This will allow you to listen to what is truly said (not what you want to hear) and will give you the opportunity to engage with the attendees and promote open communication rather than creating misunderstandings.


Meeting Secret #5 - Focus on solutions

Sometimes, it is necessary to state a problem. However, once the problem is acknowledged, the focus must immediately shift to solution-based discussions, as this is the only way to successful outcomes.


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Meeting Secret #6 - Ask high quality questions

Who likes to be told? So, ask a lot of great and high-quality questions (starting with “What” and “How”). This will allow attendees to come up with their own solutions, which creates commitment and accountability in the room.


Meeting Secret #7 - Show some vulnerability

Meetings often turn into fear or ego-driven power games. Showing some appropriate emotions and vulnerability can easily prevent this from happening. Asking questions like: “I am curious to find out what I need to learn about myself to improve this situation?” (rather than defending yourself) will make people feel more comfortable and willing to make some improvements themselves.


Meeting Secret #8 - Rephrase

If we say things that came out the wrong way, then we need to have the courage to rephrase what was said to get things straight right away. This can simply be done by saying: “This came out the wrong way, I do apologise. Let me rephrase what I just said…”


Meeting Secret #9 - Always aim for win-win

There are generally 4 strategies in a meeting: Get out; Give In; Take Over; Go for the win-win. Going for the win-win is definitely the most effective, especially in the business world.


Meeting Secret #10 - Recap decisions

For productive meetings, the end is just as important as the beginning. Spend a moment for Q&A, recapping decisions and actions, as well as what will leave the room and what will be kept confidential. Attendees should not get away with silent disagreement. It is important that everybody is on the same page about decisions and action points.


Effective meetings require structure and order. Applying these secrets above will not just make your meetings successful, effective and interesting. You will find that your team will actually WANT to attend them, because they know that your meetings yield productive outcomes.


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