Many times, meetings can be seen as boring events that people have to attend. That does not have to be the case. You can incorporate various elements into your meeting, which could make your meetings more interesting. Making the most of your meeting does not have to involve a lot of preparation. It just requires creativity and imagination. Let us learn some ways we can make our meetings fun.
The 50 Minute Meeting
The reason why meetings usually last an hour is that our computer program that sets up the meeting usually has 30-minute increments of time. We are forced to schedule meetings to last at least an hour. On a daily basis, we attend more 1-hour meetings than any other kind. When you have several meetings in a row that last an hour each, you will find that you do not have time to check your emails or do other things in between because the next meeting starts right on the hour. The 50-minute meeting is an effective way to space out meetings, allowing us time to do things in between meetings. Conducting 50-minute meetings takes discipline in time management. Here are four steps to make the most of your 50-minute meeting:
- Have an agenda: We discussed the importance of having an agenda. The agenda is the document that outlines what will be discussed in a specific amount of time. With an agenda, you will have the group agree on what topics for discussion. Send out your agenda ahead of time so your participants get an idea of time spent on each topic.
- No side conversations: Set the expectations with your participants that side-conversations are not allowed and that you expect them to be fully engaged in the meeting. Blackberries, iPhones, etc. are not allowed and express that you will hold them accountable if you see people looking under the table at such devices.
- Summarize actions steps: At the end of the meeting, summarize any action steps that resulted from the meeting. You should have action steps at the end of the meeting. If not, rethink why you held the meeting in the first place.
- Send out summary notes: This is the meeting minutes. This should be done as soon as possible after the meeting. Sending out the meeting notes is a great way to solidify those action items with the people responsible for doing them.
Using games in meetings helps to increase productivity. Many games could be used in meetings. We recommend you research the bookstores and find a resource that outlines appropriate games you can use. Remember to think about the meeting purpose before you use a game. If the meeting is about budget cuts, then you do not want to use a game in that type of meeting. Meetings that form new teams or launches a new product is best suited for games. Furthermore, determine how much time the game will take to complete versus the entire time you will be in the meeting. You do not want to play a 15-minute game in a 50-minute meeting.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to using games at meetings:
- Do use games from a book or legitimate resource
- Do use games for meetings that are meant to form new teams
- Do gauge the amount of time the game takes to play against the entire meeting time
- Do practice the game before you use it
- Do not use games in serious meetings
- Do not spend too much time on the game
- Do not make up a game of your own (unless you are confident you can pull it off)
Prizes in meetings should be used to reinforce positive behaviors. The prizes do not have to be extravagant. They could be pens, desk decorations, t-shirts, etc. When giving prizes away, be clear on how to win the prizes. Unclear instructions will lead to outbreaks of conflict when someone feels cheated. For example, if you announce that a person will get a prize for coming back from break on time, almost 95 percent of the time you will have some stay in the room and not go to break to win the prize. Make it clear that they have to leave the room. Perhaps you can up the challenge by stating that the person coming back to the meeting who is the closest to the break end-time without going over will win.
Here are some ways you can leverage prizes in your meetings:
- The most participation
- The first to arrive at the meeting
- Volunteering for something in the meeting
- Creative solution
- Who can recap the action items the best
There are no limits on how to use prizes at your meetings.
In this blog, we will look at the details of how to take meeting minutes. First, we are going to discuss the purpose of the meeting minutes. Second, we are going to discuss what to record throughout the meeting and finally, we are going to review a template that will help facilitate the minute taking process.
What are Minutes?
Minutes record major points, decisions, and follow up actions that are a result of the meeting. Meeting minutes also help to keep the meeting on track, because it uses the agenda as its outline. Meeting minutes serve as historical data that can be referenced in case a dispute should arise. They are also used to set the topics for discussion in the next meetings. Many times people who could not attend a meeting ask for the minutes so they can be updated on the latest developments in the meetings.
The minute taker should not have a major part in the meeting themselves. They must focus their attention on what is being said instead of participating. With this said, the act of taking minutes does not require that every word that is said must be recorded.
When taking notes, avoid becoming bogged down with writing full paragraphs. Outlining your points will make your note taking more efficient. When you are done taking minutes, immediately proofread and send them to the chairperson and distribute to all the meeting participants. File your minutes for referencing later.
What do I Record?
Many times people think taking minutes is a daunting task because there is a belief that every single word must be documented. If this was the case, then all you have to do is use a recorder and you are done. Recording everything will only make the minutes useless. The idea is to record information about who attended this meeting, the results and follow up action items. Here is a list of items that should be recorded in the minutes:
- Date, time and place of meeting
- The goal or purpose of the meeting
- The chairperson’s name
- Action items assigned to someone for completion after the meeting
- Decisions made during the meeting
- Attendees present and not present
- Items that did not get resolved
- Items to discuss in the next meeting
- Items that were on the agenda that did not get discussed in the meeting for one reason or the other
- The meeting end time
Keeping to this short list will make taking minutes more efficient and useful.
Disruptions in the meeting are bound to happen. Personal technology keeps participants constantly connected to the outside world. Frequent disruptions could impede the effectiveness of your meeting and become distracting to those who are focused on the meeting. Furthermore, poorly managing disruptions will reflect on the chairperson or meeting organizer. The key to mitigating disruptions is to plan for them and setting expectations.
In this module, you will learn how to deal with participants constantly running in and out of your meeting, cell phones, off topic discussions and conflicts. The goal is to reduce the affect. It is very difficult to avoid these distractions. It is human nature. Let us begin the module with a lesson on how to deal with participants constantly leaving the meeting.
Running in and Out
Constant disruptions caused by attendees running in and out of your meeting will affect the experience for the other attendees. We often take it for granted that attendees will stay in the meeting and not leave. Therefore, we do not discuss this issue very often at the beginning of the meetings. Addressing this form of distraction is best done proactively. Using the SIT technique helps your set the expectation regarding running in and out of the meeting. Next, incorporating frequent breaks lessens the changes of participants leaving the room, and finally giving timely feedback to those who break the rule is necessary in order to stop frequent violators. Let us review each step in more detail.
Set expectations: tell your participants at the beginning of the meeting what you expect of them when it comes to staying in the meeting room. Tell them the effects of constantly running in and out of the meeting on the presenter and other participants. Let all the participants know that if they need to leave the room to do so only if it is an emergency and if it is a severe problem, that they should leave the meeting. They will be more of a distraction if they stay.
Incorporate frequent breaks: at the beginning of your meeting, tell the participants they will get a five-minute break every hour the meeting lasts. Establishing this up front let the participants know when to expect a break and wait until then to call people back, etc.
Timely feedback given to those who break the rules: when you have a person still running in and out of your meeting, it is best to address that with them as soon as possible. If you have a problem participant, quietly leave the room and wait for them outside. Speak with the participant in a respectful manner and tell them that their behavior is disrupting the meeting. Ask if they are experiencing an emergency and if they need to leave. If they are not in an emergency, tell the participant if they could wait until the scheduled breaks to do what they have to do.
Cell Phone and PDA Ringing
Most people know to silent their cell phones and PDA’s when entering a meeting. However, they may forget every so often. Your job as the meeting manger is to remind them. Here are a couple of steps you can take to remind your participants to turn off those phones.
Place signs in the room instructing participants to silence their cell phone and PDA’s. They can be humorous and light-hearted. In any case, you will get your message across.
Make an announcement at the beginning of the meeting instructing the participants to turn off their cell phone or PDA now. The signs are a back-up in case you forget to do this.
Since the participants will most likely looking at the agenda, place a reminder there too. This way you have several areas where the participants can get the message.
One cell phone or PDA going off in the middle of the meeting could lead to a disruption that could last a couple of minutes. You can reduce this type of disruption by almost 100 percent by just mentioning it at the beginning of the meeting and providing reminder signs.
Off on a Tangent
This is by far the most difficult to manage in a meeting. The biggest challenge is to redirect without offending the participants. Using the EAR technique helps to do this in three simple steps.
Engage the conversation by becoming contributor for a moment. The goal is not to carry the conversation, but to gain some control by getting the meeting floor. Once engaged you are able to go to the next step.
Acknowledge that the topic is valid and worthy of discussion. This should be a short and affirming statement. This avoids embarrassment of those who carried the conversation when it is time to redirect.
Redirect the participants back to the conversation. This brief statement ends the last discussion and starts up the previous one that was on topic.
Here is a sample EAR script:
Participant on a tangent: I think pizza for breakfast is the best! There is now doubt about it.
Meeting manager: I am willing to try pizza for breakfast. It can’t be that bad.
Meeting manager: Perhaps you represent a large number of pizza lovers that enjoy the same thing you do. I won’t knock it until I try it.
Meeting manager: Now, let’s get back to the problem of employee morale in the call center. Who has some ideas they can share?
Granted the topic was embellished, but this last script demonstrated the steps clearly. Using EAR will help you master the meeting room every time the conversation goes astray.
Sometimes a meeting could result in conflict. This may be true of meetings where new teams are storming together and forming the team. Conflict could arise when two participants with opposing views clash. In any case, conflict in a meeting has to be managed. There is an acceptable degree of tension, which is normal in debates. However, when the tension turns in to outright conflict, the focus turns from the meeting to the spectacle that is the conflict. Your job as a meeting manager is to diffuse the conflict and restore order in the meeting. Allowing conflict to go unchecked could fester into a bigger problem for everyone in the meeting. The news of the conflict will spread quickly and how you managed, it will be scrutinized. Here are three steps to take when conflict arises.
- Stop: Stop the conflict by intervening and making a statement that acknowledges the conflict. Do not become frustrated yourself. Avoid taking sides. Never yell. Be professional and calm. Simply state that the discussion has turned personal and that it needs to stop.
- Drop: instruct the parties in conflict to drop the discussion for now and regain their composure. There is no need to carry on if the discussion is counterproductive.
- Roll: roll into a break. Even if you just got back from one, take a break and send the participants away for a moment. Call on the parties in conflict and hold a brief expectations meeting. You are not there to resolve personal conflict. However, you must manage the conflict because it is your meeting. Tell the persons in conflict that they must immediately stop the behavior. Restate the need for the meeting and that healthy debate is always welcomed. Have them agree to behave for the remainder of the meeting.
The meeting room is no place to try to resolve the deeper issues of the conflict. On the other hand, if the participants are all a part of a team that will meet regularly, then this issue has to be addressed in a coaching session and not in front of spectators.