26 Apr

Holding A Meeting Like A Boss

Lessons From My Real World

I seriously, seriously hate meetings! When I started my corporate career, all I ever wanted to do was be part of huge meetings. The meetings my bosses’ superior would be in, you know the one we don’t get invites to.

I always thought something special was going on in these meetings until I actually got to attend some. My 1st meeting was full of excitement; it was time for me the entry level employee to shine!! I was going to leave my mark!!!

The only thing that came out of that 1st meeting was a drained feeling. Here I was at my 1st major 2 hour meeting and I was bored as hell! I watched as my superiors argued about everything that popped up and I also watched some serious disrespect. How was this going to help the business we worked for? Would the founders or board members approve of this nonsense?

None of that mattered, what mattered was that most meetings really sucked. They are boring, long, and don’t necessarily add a positive impact to the organization or a team. Sounds familiar?

I vowed to do better, and wanted to share a few of the tips that helped me hold productive meetings for the past few years.

Have An Agenda:

This is so crucial to holding a productive meeting but many, me included, will sometimes wing the meeting. This especially happens when you have a weekly meeting set up with certain people on your team. You know the type, a status or catch up meeting.

Before even calling a meeting, you should think hard about why you need it in the 1st place. Is it a weekly check up, is there a big project coming up, is someone playing way to much young thug in the office? Meetings just to have meetings suck and can kill momentum.

After figuring out why you need the meeting in the 1st place, start outlining the flow of the meeting. Just don’t list out the topics, list why you need to speak about it.

Try to keep the theme of the agenda intact, but also refrain from including too much fluff or crap just to say you had a meeting. Stick to the topic at hand, anything outside the agenda shouldn’t be talked about.

By doing this you can focus on the meeting while it can also help you with the actual time management of it.

Setting A Time Limit:

After setting up your dope agenda for your meeting, you must next set a time limit.

This is where your agenda really shines. By outlining what you need to talk about, you can then set how much time you want to devote to each talking point. You might want to spend more time on one topic than the other, so make it known. I try not to have a meeting longer than 30 minutes and find that 15-20 minutes for most is sufficient enough. It also keeps the non vital talks out of meetings since every minute counts.

How many times have you been in a meeting where one person just keeps talking and talking but it has nothing to do with the meeting or adds no value?

I hate that shit, but we can’t just scream at them to be quiet. That’s where setting a time limit for certain discussions really shine. Meetings are not the same as water cooler talks, so budget the time needed to keep everyone in check and awake!

If you finish before the time limit, end it. Don’t fall for the trap of having a few minutes to speak about whatever’s in your head. You will extend your stay and might even confuse people.

It’s ok and sometimes beneficial to end a meeting early. Don’t be afraid to end it if needed.

Who Needs To Be At This Meeting:

Early on while running The Phat Startup, I made the mistake of wanting to be included in all discussions. It made perfect sense because it was my company and we were a small team of 4 at the time, or at least I thought it made sense.

If there was a sponsorship talk which I barely handled going on, I would sit on the other side of the phone called muted. I would listen in while my partner sealed the deal but I never had a real reason to do so. I wasted my time listening in, especially when I had no input. I could have used that time for something else, like minding my business.

As the boss or lead we sometimes feel like everyone needs to hear our voice or that we have to be part of every decision. Due to this we invite everyone to our meetings.

I get it you are the boss, but guess what so does everyone else! You don’t need to invite everyone on your team to a meeting just to flex your muscles.

Time is money in business and by wasting your employee’s time you just took money away from your company. Talk to those that need to be talked to, let the rest be great at what they do.

Your time to speak to everyone will come, even if it’s just at the water cooler.

Who Speaks And When Do They Speak:

Imagine having a deep conversation about building a web page and all you hear on the other side is the theme music to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood? As a work from home dad, this is something I have dealt with on many occasions and won’t lie; I have been the culprit at times.

So what’s a boss to do?

First know the person’s situation. Are they a stay at home parent, do they work out of coffee shops? Knowing the person’s situation can help you avoid communication issues. You can now clearly define what time works best for minimal distractions. The message can be heard without someone feeling left out or not being able to hear it due to background noise or other distractions.

Set ground rules!

If you are holding a phone conference, make it very clear that everyone should show each other respect when speaking. Let one person speak at a time and best of all let them actually get their thoughts out. Don’t interrupt! Let them finish because there is nothing worse than someone that shuts down because others keep interrupting. It kills moral and stalls the talks.

If people continue to speak over each other, bring it to light or use tools to shut them down.

My favorite is uberconference, especially for meetings with people that work out of coffee shops. They forget how loud that background noise gets and uber lets you mute them.

I have gotten cursed at a few times for muting people during a meeting I have held and I am cool with it. I rather have one person mad at me for muting their noise than a team of unmotivated or distracted individuals.

One key is not to just don’t mute them, but explain to them why they were just muted. Most people don’t know that they are being rude, being distracting or that the background noise is just at ear busting levels. Usually they will apologize and get the message, but if they don’t, mute them again or don’t include them in the meeting.

Whether you are holding the meeting or are a participant, remember you don’t always have to speak out of turn to get noticed. When it’s your time to speak just make sure it adds value to the discussion, not take away from it.

As a meeting moderator, the 4 things I listed above have really helped me become a meeting machine. I still hate them but can now deal with them much better. By clearly identifying what we need to speak about via an agenda, setting a time limit and only inviting those that matter to the meeting, holding a meeting has become easier to manage.

Less stress, more production, and a clear game plan for meetings is a must. I’m still a work in progress myself, so send your tips my way!!!!


Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

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  1. […] just to have meetings suck, I wrote about that very thing here! Same thing can be said for a time out in […]

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