6 Steps to More Meaningful Meetings

Posted by
Hollie Ellison
Senior Marketing Manager, Events
Monday, September 28, 2015 - 10:47

We’ve all witnessed the power of groupthink — the beauty of collaborative ideation as a team. Done right, meetings have the potential to transform. And, according to the late Steve Jobs, “Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea.”

Unharnessed and mismanaged, however, meetings are a drag on productivity. Sadly, they’ve gotten a bad rap in recent years. Inc. reports that, while 25 million meetings take place in the US every day, executives consider nearly 70% of them failures.

There’s a lot wrong with the system.

It’s time to rethink the way you approach meetings, from line-item agendas to more meaningful, mindful conversations. Below are six steps to get you there.

6 ways to host better meetings

Don't be jaded by the meaningless meetings of the past. Instead, step up and shift your meeting culture now before your next conference-room nightmare.

1. Embrace possibilities. Don’t be afraid of the unconventional meeting. Often the best way to approach unsolved mysteries is from an uncommon viewpoint. Harvard Business Review points to a similar strategy (i.e., creative discomfort): “An environment of discomfort contributes to creativity by breaking people out of their normal thought patterns, encouraging original thinking and risk-taking.”

 A few suggestions to switch it up:

  • Stop talking through PowerPoints. Disrupt the status quo with new presentation tools and two-way conversations.
  • Ask everyone to contribute to a working meeting agenda and mandate that they bring three ideas to the table.
  • Get out of the office. Meet at your local coffee shop.

2. Let connections grow organically. Beyond immanent projects and problems, meetings are fundamental to building healthy relationships with your colleagues. Create a safe space for sharing idea: The more comfortable employees are with their peers, the more likely they are to participate.

Meeting with someone you haven’t worked with before? Kick off the meeting with a connection exercise. Here’s one example we often use at LivePerson: “What crossroad do you face right now?” Show you care on a personal level, and your professional relationship will be much stronger.

3. Be flexible. Meeting agendas are invaluable, but don’t force line items where they don’t naturally fit. If there’s a steady flow of collaborative conversation, inspiration, and high energy levels, just let it happen. 

4. Encourage. Be supportive and open to new ideas and be transparent when disagreements arise. Your “yes” means much less if it’s always followed by the word “but” — or worse yet if there’s never a “no.” There are ways to productively disagree without coming off as controlling or mean.

99u notes, “Sparring gives groups the opportunity to question their work, idea, or project in a public environment and receive valuable feedback in a non-threatening way.”

5. Talk less. Listen more. Sick of hearing the same voice in a room? Purposefully give your introverted employees and younger associates the chance to speak up. If the environment is too intimidating, break the attendees into smaller groups.

Tip: If you’re not naturally an auditory learner, try taking notes on key discussion points. Visually seeing discussion points might inspire other ideas.

6. Clearly define action items. Enwrap each meeting with purpose. Make a list of next steps, including who should be taking the lead on each one. Before adjourning, ask every attendee to reflect on the meeting’s value. Ask: “How did this meeting impact your viewpoint? What is your biggest takeaway?”

For the duration of your meeting, keep in mind that questions are your most powerful tool. We define the best questions as unexpected (say “goodbye” to comfort zones!), ambiguous (there is no right answer), and connected (think “depth”). 

Get our booklet on "Meeting in a Meaningful Way."Related reads

For more, download our “Meeting in a Meaningful Way” guide to hosting meetings that matter.

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