Have you ever left a meeting and wondered what just happened? Have you ever left a meeting needing to check your blood pressure? Have you ever found yourself texting, checking email, or playing Words with Friends during the meeting? Maybe you began posting rants about the meeting on Facebook or Twitter. If you are really sneaky you might have taken pics and posted them too.
I call these Killer Meetings. We get so bored or frustrated because we do not feel anything is being accomplished. We all have so much to do that we only have a certain amount of time. We don’t want our time wasted unless it was our choice. A new form of meeting that is emerging is called the Email Meeting. I appreciate what is being attempted and sometimes it works best with busy schedules. However, there is a creative confluence that happens when we get together that is missed in email. I read in Proverbs the other day that toil brings profit and talking brings poverty. Let’s apply that to the meetings we lead or attend. Here are 4 must-includes for your next meeting.
1. Movement. The best way to keep a meeting moving is to have a definite finish moment. This reminds me of counseling sessions that have a timer. You have seen movies and shows that portray the couple in the middle of an emotional moment when the alarm sounds. The counselor interrupts and tells them the session is over and calendars the next session. The point is to keep the couple focused and working hard. Starting and ending on time may feel awkward but creates a respect for the time provided. Reminding people that another meeting will be scheduled if the agenda is not accomplished tends to drive home the need for focus and good flow of information and ideas. There are times when another meeting is required and some information should not be rushed. However, many decisions are neglected because we did not move through the discussion in an appropriate fashion.
2. Management. People have a tendency to get off task. Discussions and conversations ensue on a variety of topics. Countless meetings have gone on for hours only to leave everyone worn out and wondering what happened. Many leaders and committee heads have started printing agendas and passing them out. The problem is they are not always used. The leader must keep the group on task. One way to accomplish this is to send out the agenda before the meeting. This way everyone knows what to expect and can formulate their thoughts that aid in movement. When the group begins to stray the leader needs to guide them back to the topic at hand. Managing a meeting requires a focus and attention to the task at hand. If the leader simply lets the conversation prattle on indefinitely then hours pass and no decision is made.
3. Making Decisions. I am constantly battling this issue. Often I sit through meetings where there has been grand discussion without any decisions. An agenda that does not drive toward a decision is not useful. Meetings that stay on time and are managed well but do not make decisions leaves the people tired and possibly deciding it was not worth it. I have seen groups dwindle because nothing is happening. A skilled group leader will design the agenda that demands a decision before the end. Certainly we are to discuss. However, some people like to talk about something without conclusions. These types will kill a meeting, a ministry, or any group. They can hijack the group and drive to derision and not decisions. I am not saying that rash decisions should be made with discussion and debate. Excessive talk and off-topic discussion must be squelched in order for the greater good of the group to be experienced.
4. Maintenance. When the alarm sounds, so to speak, the clean up begins. Have all the items been completed? Is another meeting needed? After the meeting the leader or secretary sends a report to the group reminding them what happened. Also, a report needs to be sent up the leadership ladder for accountability. Without this work, we all forget what happened. The decisions made at this meeting might affect other groups in the organization. If these are not shared there could be overlapping resource needs which leads to difficulties.
Adjusting from killer meetings to meetings that kill it takes courage and consistency. This change does not happen in the first meeting of a group that has a history of babbling without anything beneficial. Allow for some flexibility and over time your group will start killing it!
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23 ESV)