Things that are pretending to be good meetings – and how can visuals make it better

“Could this meeting have been an email?” Sometimes ….yes.  Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. When you need to meet, make it count. Maximize your time together – and bring a sense of usefulness, a higher level purpose, or connection in how you gather. Here are some quick tips to diagnose if this is really a good meeting – and how a visual can make it even better. (Plus a bonus cheat sheet here:)

Have Purpose

What is pretending to be a good meeting: A group of people in a room who don’t know why they are meeting

What that really is: Expensive

What you could do instead: Set an agenda ahead of time. Have a clear purpose. Have a POP. Cancel the meeting if you don’t know why you’re meeting.

Visual tool: Visual agenda; visual POP

Increase Engagement

What is pretending to be a good meeting: Someone at a podium, and presenting to people for hours

What that really is: A lecture

What you could do instead: Present info for 5, 10 or 20 minutes. Have people talk with each other in group work / with activities in between

Visual tool: group work activity, with templates for the notetaking

 

Build Connection

What is pretending to be a good meeting: A group of people in a room, talking, without time limits

What that really is:  A social

What you could do instead: Go out for lunch or coffee

Visual tool: Invitation (especially if it’s an organization-wide cross pollinating initiative)

 

Clear Invitation

What is pretending to be a good meeting: Brainstorming, but without decision makers present

What that really is:  Frustration

What you could do instead: Invite the right people to the meeting

Visual tool: graphic recording the meeting process

tiare jung graphic recording at strategem conference by cicely blain

 

Decision-Ready

What is pretending to be a good meeting: People talking, but no action steps

What that really is:  Conversation

What you could do instead: Create accountability by summarizing next steps and responsibilities

Visual tool: a who/what/by when chart

 

Ask Questions

What is pretending to be a good meeting: One person dominating the microphone for Q&A

What that really is: Alienating

What you could do instead: Pair and share first for better participation. During Q&A, the facilitator should ensure people ask questions

Visual tool: post it notes for a pair and share

 

Enable Participation

What is pretending to be a good meeting: One person talking. Then the meeting ends

What that really is:  Boring

What you could do instead. Enable participation: Do a round. Ask a question. Structure a short time (5 minutes) to connect with someone else

Visual Tool: Photo facilitation cards, or, share back 1 – 3 insights to be harvested

 

Write it Down

What is pretending to be a good meeting: Roundtable updates

What that really is:  An email

What you could do instead: Send an email. If you need feedback, in person  from people, then call a meeting

Visual tool: email with images

 

Be transparent

What is pretending to be a good meeting: An elaborate agenda with Roberts’ Rules or confusing rules about when to talk

What that really is:  Gatekeeping

What you could do instead: Share the process with new people about the meeting rules. Enable time to network and build relationships, before the formal meeting starts

Visual tool: Visual instructions, clear signage

 

Okay to Change

What is Pretending to be a good meeting: Any meeting where “We Have Always Done it This Way”

What that really is: Sigh.

What you could do instead: The good news is that any small changes make a big difference. You could: rotate responsibilities, do a check in, choose a clear facilitator role, meet offsite, do a Liberating Structure….

Visual tools: bring in creative or visual methods, share maps for walking meeting, use creative or visual methods, graphic facilitation … the sky’s the limit!

photo by orest tabaka

Here’s a quick list of what great meetings should have:

  • participation by more than one person talking
  • a clear purpose
  • clear outcomes
  • an agenda
  • the right people in the room
  • opportunities for engagement
  • action steps at the end
  • and a timer (*in some cases!)

Visual tools can help with each of these stages, from visual agendas to graphic recording that show people their ideas matter. Because when people are engaged, connected and able to contribute – we all benefit.