Five Ways to Host Better Meetings

How do you run good meetings? Much emphasis has recently been placed on the quality of business meetings, but organizations rarely train their employees to lead them. Not all managers are role models for running good meetings.

Most of us learn the hard way, including becoming adept at identifying what we think is an unnecessary meeting.

So how do we do it? This article brings together the quality ingredients that make a good meeting. These ingredients are common to all meetings: those hosted by in-house lawyers, business meetings attended by in-house lawyers and internal meetings of the legal department.

1. Every meeting needs a mission

To be productive, a meeting must have a mission, and this mission must be clearly expressed to all participants.

A mission is, in essence, one or a combination of the following objectives:

  • cascading information (notifying that we will be supporting a new department/project, for example)
  • collect input and discuss (Who has dealt with a similar case in the past? What were the lessons learned?)
  • team brainstorming (e.g. we need to develop a new proposal for the management team)
  • make decisions (e.g. we need to distribute workflows and agree on deliverables)

You’ll have a better meeting if people are aligned on a goal and know their expected contributions in advance.

For example, let’s say Sophie walks into the meeting thinking the team will go into brainstorming mode while James thinks he’ll hear all about a new organization. We use meeting time to shift mindsets and align expectations. We could have aligned expectations from the start, alleviated unnecessary frustrations and made better use of meeting time.

Clearly stating the purpose of the meeting at the opening helps ensure that everyone in attendance agrees on why we are meeting.

2. Then you have to prepare

Preparing for a productive meeting includes:

  • be fully informed on every subject
  • ensure the meeting has an agenda or structure, that each agenda item has an owner or sponsor, and that the time allotted to each item is realistic – unstructured time is part of the structure
  • if the meeting is long, coffee breaks and chat time are building blocks of that meeting – leaving room for healthy disagreement is also part of the structure
  • test the technology in advance if the setup is technology-dependent, such as when the format calls for hybrid participation and some attendees will join virtually – a meeting must be efficient to be productive
  • consider what we are aiming to achieve for each item or takeaway (pre-thinking does not, of course, mean predetermining the outcome; we come into a meeting ready to listen – and hearing from others is what makes the meeting worthwhile)
  • thinking about how to get feedback at the end of the meeting (for example, using a form, an app, or a three-minute feedback chat at the table) to ensure we hear how our attendees experienced the meeting

The more thorough the preparation, the more focused the meeting.

3. Now, is everyone contributing?

Once the purpose of the meeting is clear to all participants and the meeting has been prepared, there must be attendance for a meeting to be successful. A meeting is called because different experiences, contributions, perspectives and skills are needed.

Participation is cultivated when meetings are focused on people rather than documents. For example, say a meeting has been called to discuss a report, but there is no need to ask what each participant thinks of the results. People are not encouraged to contribute and comment but to listen and take notes.

Large performance meetings with 95-slide presentations rarely engage attendees actively; their organization is centered on dialogue. You can encourage participation by building your agenda around questions to ask rather than items to present.

For example, instead of meeting on “reducing external legal expenses,” you could design your agenda by asking yourself, “How can we reduce our external legal expenses by 15%? »

4. Will we build engagement by assigning roles?

Where the context permits, we can increase engagement by configuring roles in advance. Expected contributions can be focused on expertise, but also on generic roles, such as being the meeting host on a rotating basis.

You can pre-assign the task of wrapping up and circulating action points at the end of the meeting. You can also introduce new roles, like acting as a challenger for specific arguments or serving as a timekeeper to make sure participants stay on track.

When a meeting is about everyone and includes everyone, usually everyone participates.

Some indicators that we are holding inclusive meetings include:

  • improved communication (people talk)
  • come up with a meaningful action plan at the end, and
  • participants who leave the meeting feel energized

5. How is the atmosphere in the room?

Good planning and execution make meetings productive, efficient and useful. But how about making meetings enjoyable and bring a qualitative dimension to our meeting times? For a meeting to be pleasant, the atmosphere in the room must play its part.

Should fun be a recurring ingredient for better meetings? Depending on the context, most of the time a sense of humor and fun can be added – and maintained over time.

For example, you can warm up the room by asking people to share their proudest moment of the week, whether at home or at the office. You can start a meeting with a mini-quiz on unusual service facts.

You can ask our participants to play brain writing – asking everyone to write down their ideas on a post-it and then pass them on to someone else, who will add new ideas. This repeats for a few rounds until the result becomes debatable. And the question could be the first item on the agenda, but could also be this: how can we make our next meeting a better meeting?