My main philosophy for any meeting I organise is that I want everyone who attends to feel they really want to come back to the next one. It sounds pretty obvious in many ways, but I decided on this approach many years after realising that I personally experienced the opposite quite often.
If I was ever invited to attend a meeting – internal or external – I would dutifully turn up with a desire to engage and participate, to learn, add value and to enjoy. Sometimes that was straightforward to achieve and sometime it was pretty well impossible. Sometimes the stumbling block was most certainly me and my abilities…but other times it was the focus and style of the meeting.
I also realise there is no way that I can always satisfy that philosophy, but I do everything possible to make it true…and – as with most actions I take – I give myself time afterwards to assess and review. My fear being that team members will only come back because they feel they have to.
I focus my approach on the meeting content – what we are trying to achieve…what progress we have made…who needs to be involved – and the meeting style. I schedule longer time slots to fewer topics and always seek to include active working sessions in smaller teams on every topic.
I like to have an overarching theme. It’s good if topics flow together. It’s great to get different people presenting and leading. It’s a positive sign when I feel nervous energy. It’s better when we identify ideas and options none of us have thought about before. It’s best when I can see everyone’s faces.
I arranged a big meeting last week. But we were all remote rather than together. We covered four time zones and at least twelve locations. We ranged from six people in one place to several team members participating by themselves.
December is always a very busy time of year. Everyone is working incredibly hard to do everything possible in support of our full year objectives…but 2017 is literally just two or three weeks away. This week was an opportunity chance for us to take stock of 2016 and plan for 2017.
Despite the virtual nature of our meeting, I stuck to plan over the format. We had multiple presenters – including a special guest – and virtual breakout teams. We even used our laptop videoconference capability on several occasions.
The assessment of whether our meeting left participants feeling like they can’t wait for next time is a personal one. But I know I felt energised by the team individually and collectively and by the meeting, and that at the end of the week I was happy…and tired.
The other assessment I make is whether the investment of time and effort delivers a business benefit as well as the obvious personal and team benefit. And the simplest measure of business benefit is those ideas and options none of us had thought about before.
I always look out for these moments as the meeting progresses. It’s not necessary of course. When they happen it’s obvious. There’s a surge of energy. Everyone jumps – both literally (well almost) and onto the idea. I recognise those moments when they happen to me.
I never know where or when they will happen. Or who will propose the idea, or make the suggestion or make the comment or ask the question that leads to the new idea. But it happens. And it did. On what we are doing commercially and financially, with our partners, and with and for our people.
I was pleased. And proud. And excited.