Our Meeting rooms have been happily filled with offsite meetings this spring season! While companies continue to seize the opportunity to gather in person, we are revisiting wisdom we’ve learned from our history of talented colleagues.

This guest blog post from former facilitator partner Levi Baer shares his best tips to improve your meetings’ efficiency and engagement. Use them to enhance your next team round-up!

Table Talk: Making the Most of Your Meetings

by Levi Baer

Let’s face it. Work meetings can be a nightmare. Dominating talkers, boring presentations and lengthy discussions leave most of us doodling or peeking at pictures of cats on our phone. Working in team building, I facilitate a lot of meetings and no one, including myself, wants to sit through dreary or frustrating gatherings. The good news is anyone can help contribute to a productive meeting. Here are a few of my favorite ways to turn time wasted into time well spent.

Check In and Out

The effectiveness of meetings can suffer if a few moments are not dedicated to a brief check in at the beginning and check out at the close of the meeting.

The check in sets the tone for sharing, creates familiarity, and humanizes the room. Consider a prompt that allows for a bit of personal storytelling. “What’s one accomplishment you’ve had in the last week?” or “What is one great example of leadership you witnessed recently?” are great examples of ways to hear from everyone. Just be sure to not make the prompt too personal or invading.

The check out provides a space to confirm consensus, recap important action items, and get a sense of the room’s reaction to any decisions. The trick is to give a space for any closing thoughts without extending the duration of the meeting. Find an agreed upon time and place for any other necessary discussions, such as a group email or future meeting. Not all members may want to give feedback at that time, so allowing for a post-meeting caters to various styles.

Assign Roles

Dividing up the leadership of the meeting among various roles not only provides more opportunities for others to speak but also creates the expectation of multiple voices being heard. There are a variety of ways to create roles. Here are four I believe are important to include:

Facilitator: Introduces topics and speakers, tracks the progress of the agenda, checks for consensus, and keeps the meeting on task.

Time Keeper: Keeps an eye on the clock, suggest breaks (“bio breaks” should be taken every 90 minutes), and updates the group about progress towards the ending time.

Empath: Follows the emotional state of the room by monitoring both verbal and non-verbal reactions of group members. The empath is not solely responsible for solving inequalities and conflicts, only bringing them to the attention of the room and/or leadership.

Minute Taker: Acts as the official note taker for the meeting so that members can focus on participation rather than recording every word. This person updates the “parking lot” list of discussion items that are outside of the current agenda s to avoid side tracking conversations.

Skill Assessment

A football team wouldn’t send players out to a game without figuring out who was good at passing, catching and tackling and then putting those players in their respective positions so why would anyone do something similar during a meeting? Understanding who is good at what and assigning tasks and roles accordingly can take any group from an unorganized and disgruntled state to a high performance team.

Make it fun! Games and problem solving challenges are a great way to teach a group about its members. For example, teams can compete to build the tallest tower out of regular office supplies then debrief and share what aspects each liked and disliked. You will find that some people enjoyed the planning and directing, others enjoyed the actual building the most and some just liked to observe and record. Those preferences translate back to everyday roles at work; why fight against what comes naturally?

There are plenty of ways to make meetings a terrible experience but there are many more to make them productive, efficient and dare I say, fun. Utilizing check-ins/outs, role assignments, and skill assessments are only a few of many things a group can do to improve a meeting. Since no one wants to sit through another snooze-fest, why not take a little time to make the most of your meeting?

Click here to catch up with Levi Baer.

Click here to learn more about meetings at Catalyst Ranch.

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