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Transforming meetings – a pragmatic guide borne out of years of doodling…

I’ve read so much about meetings, how to prepare, manage, summarise, etc, etc, and my mind has filled up with so much good advice that I have little capacity left for any actual content at the meetings.

In 2017 I decided I would look back over many years of meetings and reflect on what made some memorable, effective and empowering, and some dull, pointless and very boring – and then see if I could come up with a simple set of principles – and I’m pleased to say that I’ve road-tested these and found them jolly useful!

Please feel free to adopt/refine as you find useful: there are only two rules:

Rule 1: Preparation

  • What outcome do you want from the meeting, and what are the specific questions you want answered?

Rule 2: Summary

  • What were the key decisions and who is now going to do what and by when?

Everything else is secondary, so keep it SIMPLE.

Rule 1 drives whether you really need a meeting, who to invite, why and how long. It’s worth telling people these things before they get there. You will find that as clarity of definition takes hold, people will prepare and pre-read to avoid looking daft – and that’s better than you trying to hassle them to prepare.

Rule 2 needs to be kept punchy. Long minutes that arrive a week later are generally of little use: there needs to be more action, agility, pace and immediate ownership. Encourage people to record their own actions at the meeting and try not to have too many. A few actions done on time is more productive than a long list of actions that don’t get done for ages. Follow up quickly with a short summary of decisions and actions, with a timely reminder to chase up actions.

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