Should That Meeting Have Been an Email?
Designing and facilitating purposeful meetings and - just for fun - a meeting BINGO card!
Meetings are important. No, really. However, meetings that lack purpose, progress, or outcomes abound.
When we think about meetings, likely we rarely calculate the total working hours being spent in that place, or on those topics, for the entire group. I have been part of a few groups in the past where I actively considered the total working hours invested for the group. I may have calculated this due to meeting fatigue. Amazingly, it adds up quickly.
The important topics for meetings reach far beyond the time spent.
Other essential considerations are the physical safety and psychological safety of the participants. Basically, office spaces may have negative mental health impacts. Importantly, cultivating inclusive workplaces and psychologically safe spaces, as well as physically safe spaces, help employees.
Physical safety seems obvious, but since people need greater assurances and attention paid to safety, clearly it is often neglected. Psychological safety is considered to be an environment in which people feel that they can ask for help, share informal suggestions, or challenge the status quo - basically, innovate - without fear of retribution.
Beyond these essentials, the structure and purpose of the meeting are essential. Generally, SMART goals are useful in many situations. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In general, this principle applies well in many aspects of life. Meetings would be a good place to consider SMART goals or similar adaptations, in particular.
For educators, applying the general principles of backwards design to meetings can be useful. Backwards design helps educators consider the learning goals of the course first, then work backwards from there. Often, a similar structure can be adapted to meetings. Thinking through the goals of the meeting, then backwards through the activities to the invitees, can be a useful way to apply a previously known skill.
Deliberate meeting design is useful to plan and prepare for meetings in advance. Process and content separation is essential. This means that the content (the “what” of the meeting) and the process (how the meeting progresses and decisions are made) both have dedicated attention.
Relatedly, meeting facilitation is the practice of keeping the meeting on track, involving all participants, and working towards (and hopefully reaching) the intended goals. The activities of meetings can vary, even if they are weekly/bi-weekly/monthly or other regularly scheduled occurrences. Examples of other activities include themed check-ins, weekly varying topics, 8/7 (presentation duration/question duration), 15 minute story, group brainstorm/problem solving, traveling meeting (different location), maker session, guest speaker, and many others. Much like other group activities, consensus building and buy-in center and support the changes to the meeting and formats.
Meeting agendas are valuable tools, when applied well, to set clear topics, objectives, and time frames for the meeting. Follow-up tasks and activities for the group at the end, and clarified later with the minutes, provide a neat closing wrap for the meeting.
Meeting agendas - how and why to use a meeting agenda
SMART goals - a how-to guide
Meeting design - designing useful meetings
Inclusive workplaces - people, not just policies
Just for fun, here’s a “should this meeting have been an email?” BINGO style card! Enjoy!
What do you find that is missing from this meeting should have been an email BINGO card?