Running successful meetings is not rocket science!

people at a meeting

Running successful meetings is not rocket science!

– although the mass of literature, training and navel gazing says it should be.

What goes wrong in meetings?

You are able, no doubt, to make your own extensive list.

It will be predictable, on going and it never changes.

So one thing is sure. Current literature and training is not working and we need to think differently.

The classic model of behavior is the good old iceberg metaphor.

Above the table we see behaviors, we hear talking, we see visuals, we have papers. Chairing skills ensure we have an agenda, the right people are present, there is progress and agreement as we go. Conflict is sorted and everybody should be happy – if only……..

Below the table it all happens and this is where the detailed literature and training piles in. Solutions for every eventuality. Academics at their most prolific looking logically at an answer to every feeling, every emotion, every working style, detail, detail, detail.

The real solution.

BE DIFFERENT. Work in a method and use tools that make the ‘below the table’ fade away – out of sight, of no influence. Depending on the degree of need for documents get rid of tables or have a room where you can break away from the table and work in free uncluttered space.

Stop being a chair person and be a catalyst.

Don’t show too many slides – if any.

Manage the discussion in a way other than talking.

Record visually every input, decision, query and disagreement (but not on a flip chart!)

Keep all members active (physically and intellectually) all of the time.

Allow quiet people to be quiet and windbags to be unrestricted (but not verbally!)

Don’t use breakout rooms.

There are many theories about people’s behavior so bear in mind those that you feel have some validity (they all have huge similarities!).

Here are two you may wish to consider.

Honey and Mumford’s

  • Activist
  • Reflector
  • Theorist
  • Pragmatist

Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence

  • Visual. Spatial
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Logical
  • Linguistic
  • Rhythmical/Musical
  • Naturalistic
  • Kinesthetic

These are some of the issues where ‘normal’ meetings go wrong:

Sitting around a table, unable to get up or move

Going around the table inviting contributions

No breaks

Bad PowerPoint slides full of text

Verbal discussion

Repetition of deep felt views

Long-winded contributions

Quiet/Shy people pressured into saying something or wishing to say something, but the meeting has moved on.

Method and tools required.

The three stages of a meeting are as normal – before, during and after.

Before – standard planning stuff: get the right people, find the right venue, work out rough timings, have a definite purpose, prepare a game plan, have a crystal clear end point.

During – this is the CHANGE!

Tools – ideally, pinboards, coloured cards, coloured pens, paper for the boards – brown or white. Flip chart. Music.

Method – Start with an entry board:(See:

This allows people to chat with a purpose on arrival, to do something on arrival and it’s an opportunity for people who don’t know each other to share some information. You can, of course, choose whatever questions are appropriate to your group and your objectives.

Get some focus – Ask a question that can be responded to by placing a sticky dot (for example) on a continuum.

Have a brief discussion about why some of the dots were placed where they were.

No decisions at this stage – it’s just an opener. The picture shows (organization’s name deleted) “How do you rate meetings in Mac………?”

Next step – Ask a question – write it on a long card and place at the top of a board. Make sure it is the right, open question. Another could be “On what criteria should a team be judged?”

Get responses on cards. (There are many techniques to manage the numbers of cards to be processed – too few and it’s a waste of time and too many takes too long and you lose energy and engagement.) It’s by using cards that you control the verbose and the quiet – and you do this without any ‘management’ so quiet people don’t feel pressurized and the windbags can write loads of cards – not all of which they will eventually want to use.

Group the cards. Pretty normal stuff if you use Post-its but remember these cards belong to the participants not you! DON”T tell people where to group them. Get the people to tell you. AND do not have a free for all, letting the group cluster on their own. The activists will do the work, the reflectors will stand at the back and watch, the theorists will discuss and the pragmatists will probably be jumping ahead thinking about the next steps.

Put a title to each group (participants choice) and the vote to find the key points. Consensus is not normally needed at this stage – but you do need to get the group ‘feel’ for the next steps.

Now you have key points the group think to be most important you can go to your next planned step.

It may well be to break into groups and, for example, tackle solutions for problems or actions to meet opportunities. Here is another video to show this.

Keep people in the same room working in groups – ideally on pinboards – and use the buzz of activity. There is nothing worse than going into a new room for group discussion! The dynamic you have built up is lost; it’s like starting a new meeting.

The sub group recommendations or decisions can be floated to the rest of the group (there’s a technique to this) and if all agreed go on to the action plan/final board.

After – Send out photographs of EVERY board made during the meeting. These photos are the minutes of the meeting – un-doctored, unedited and real.

Add normal, standard follow up activities

For more information:

Phone Pinpoint Facilitation on 01300 345611 and ask for Keith Warren-Price .