Let’s start with two indisputable facts about meetings:
- Most aren’t very good
- Most are prepared using a similar process.
Conclusion: the process doesn’t work very well. So don’t do it.
And what is this process?
“I want to discuss topic X. So let’s get all the relevant stakeholders in a room, so we can hit everyone at once. Let’s also cover all the relevant topics on the agenda, so we can hit everything at once.”
Does that sound familiar? As is the usual result: meandering, boring and too few resulting actions.
A better approach is to prepare using PALM:
- Purpose. Identify exactly what you want to be able to do after the meeting (in other words, focus first on what the meeting is supposed to cause, not cover).
- Agenda. List the key decisions that need to be made, in order to achieve the purpose.
- Limit time. Don’t say meetings will last an hour, or they will. Instead, say they will last “a maximum of 45 minutes”. Most meetings are too long anyway. And saying “a maximum of” means that people expect it to finish earlier. So it often does.
- Minimise attendees. This may sound weird; but you want to strip out as many people as possible. When two people meet, there is just one agreement: person A agreeing with B. However, when four meet, it shoots up to 6 agreements (AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD). When it gets to 8-12 people, the number of agreements rockets up even further.
You can use this PALM approach widely:
- In your diary invites — start with a purpose, then agenda, then say it will last “a maximum of”.
- In all of your communications before the meeting.
- In your introduction at the start of the meeting. “Thanks for your time today. The reason for this meeting is so that, after it, we’re able to do X and Y. We’ll finish as soon as we can”.
- In the printed agenda — put the purpose at the top.
- In your follow-up email confirming actions.
What simple changes could you make, so that everyone looks forward to coming to your meetings, rather than arriving late? Or not at all.
Copyright © 2014 Andy Bounds, communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.