Better meetings, anyone?

The start of the year often means lots of planning meetings and kickoffs — all time consuming, and not always entirely satisfying. How can we do better?

Priya Parker, in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, has some suggestions:

  • Define a purpose for the meeting. Do you want to make decisions? Increase teamwork? Allow various grievance to be heard? That will make a difference in how you set up the meeting, whom you invite, and where you hold it. Parker says that purposes must be both clear and challengeable, that is, the meeting needs to have a point of view (not just “get together as usual in January” but perhaps “get team A and team B to work better together”).
  • Having a purpose, you will find it easy to define who should participate, and whom to exclude.
  • Match the venue to the purpose. A huge room won’t work for an intimate chat. (I was thinking of a meeting I attended long ago at a luxury hotel to announce extreme belt-tithening measures… Dissonance!)
  • Define a set of rules for the meeting. A meeting is a social contract. Make the expectations clear
  • Remember that the meeting starts with the invitation. Parker calls it “priming”. Ask participants to prepare something relevant. It will help them to participate fully.
  • Open strong. This starts with greeting the participants. Try a cold open: start with a provocative statement rather than logistics and bland greetings.
  • Close strong. Again, no logistics, no lengthy thank you’s. Plan something memorable and actionable for the end (after the logistics and thank you’s).

    How do you plan your meetings? Any tips you can share?

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