How to start a meeting effectively (video transcript)

Meetings. Those time wasters that choke up your calendar and push real work to evenings and weekends. Those opportunities to hear people ramble on to justify their paycheck, or just hear the sweet sound of their own voices. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. It’s time we get back to efficient, effective meetings we can all look forward to.

Here are the right words to say to get a meeting off to a good start.

Focus on the unique value of the meeting

First, focus on the unique value of the meeting. A group of people should be in a room together only for as long as they’re adding unique value by being there. If the unique value of the meeting isn’t clear, the tendency will be to do everyone’s individual work by committee. Better get comfy.

So, the first thing to say in a meeting is a clear message about the task at hand. Like this, “Thanks everyone for coming. This is our weekly operations meeting. We’re looking only for issues that are not on track based on our plan. Each issue needs an action plan before we leave the room.”

Only say things that add value

Second, only say things that add value. A huge amount of time in meetings is spent in violent agreement with one another. You know this kind of pointless repetition is coming when someone says, “I don’t want to repeat what others have said, but”.

When you start a meeting, make it clear you’re looking for new thoughts. Try, “Please make sure to filter your contributions. I’m looking for disagreement and diversity of thought.”

Reinforce your ground rules

Third, the start of a meeting is a great chance to reinforce your ground rules. I’m a strong believer in having a few rules of the road for how you interact. If you have them, refer to them at the outset.

A reminder, we’ve all committed to start with a positive assumption, to add our full value, and to embrace productive conflict.

Head off passive aggressive behavior

Fourth, the start of a meeting is the right time to head off passive aggressive behavior. If embracing productive conflict is a challenge for your team, it’s really valuable to deal with that at the beginning of the meeting. Say something like, I’m concerned we aren’t using our meetings effectively to air all of our opinions. Or, I want everyone to add value in the meeting, not after it.

Meetings should be used sparingly, and more importantly, used wisely when there’s a specific reason for a group of people to come together. When you invest the time in having a meeting, make sure to set the tone at the beginning to make the discussion as valuable as possible.

Those are the right words to say at the beginning of a meeting.

More on this

8 Techniques to Make Your Meetings More Effective (Part I)

8 Techniques to Make Meetings More Effective (Part II)

How to Evaluate the Quality of Meetings