Everything I’ve Learned About Running Meetings Comes From Not Wanting to Be There
Focus. Focus. Let’s go. Focus. Come on. Focus. Let’s go. We’re done here.
That’s what managing a good meeting feels like. It’s wrangling the thousand little sojourns and distractions that people instinctively throw in the middle of your meeting. Here’s some tips on how to run a good meeting.
Step 1: The Basics
Just go read Powerfully Simple Meetings. It’s got all the basics, but if there’s one thing that you must do it’s have an agenda. Even if you don’t send it out in advance, even if you have to type it in real time out of your brain at the beginning of the meeting, you have no right to commandeer a room of people unless you have some structure for what it is you’re doing.
Step 2: Time Management
You should be looking at the clock with nervous energy your whole meeting. You came here to get something done and with every minute that ticks by your window of opportunity is closing. Shame on you if your meetings run long, you should have to pay back that time in detention after work.
Also, if you don’t have anything else to say, end early. For the love of god end the meeting early. Here’s a simple tip:
If you have a recurring meeting that always takes up the full time allotted, you are probably screwing something up.
The probability you actually need that exact amount of time at that cadence, forever, is 0.
If you regularly need more time, you should either make the meeting longer or find ways to make it need less time.
If you need less time, for the love of god end the meeting early.
Step 3: If People Aren’t Engaging, That’s On You
Dead audiences are made, not born. Some quick tips for making people engage with what you’re presenting: Present an agenda beforehand, see step 1. It’s real common for you to feel like the only person who has thoughts about your meeting topic because you’re the only one who has had time to think about it. Give people time to think and give them an expected format for response. It’s inclusive and effective. “I want feedback on X. Think for 2 minutes and then we’ll go around the room.” Give people something to react to. “What do you think about this plan?” gets more feedback than “What should the plan be?”
Step 4: Stop Telling Jokes
Work meetings are not for you to test out your standup routine and it’s not for you to tell stories about your favorite pet. You have roughly 2 minutes at the beginning of the meeting to shoot the shit, after that you should be telling about as many jokes as if you were coding silently by yourself. Because you’re working.
Note: especially if you’re a manager or an executive - you’ve effectively trapped people and forced them to listen and have at least a lukewarm reaction to what you’re saying. Use that power wisely.
Know the basics
Manage your time
Structure your feedback
Leave your stand-up routine at home