It doesn’t matter what type of church or organization you work in, meetings are a crucial part of your teams sense of unity, direction, and clear communication. They offer the opportunity to gain insight, problem solve, strategize, and solidify action steps that will move the organization forward towards to desired outcome.

However, meetings can also provide the exact opposite. In most cases and in most organizations, this is the case. So the question is, how do we run successful meetings that leave your team members feeling that your time spent together was beneficial, insightful, and set them on the right road moving forward?

Here are six keys that I am learning about holding and being a part of successful meetings.

1. Only hold meetings when necessary
Not every issue requires a sit down meeting – some issues can move forward with a simple email or conference call. It’s crucial to your teams sense of work flow and productivity that you do not hijack their focus and time with useless meetings.

2. Keep meetings small
Not every meeting requires everyone on the team in attendance – only invite the people needed who had value to the outcome. Everyone around the table should be a contributing factor to the solution and leave that meeting with action steps that move the projected outcome forward – constant spectators are not welcome. I know this sound harsh (especially in the church world), but think of how many non-contributing people sit quietly in your meetings – is there something else they could be doing during that time that is a more effective and beneficial use of their time?

3. Have an agenda
If you’re the one facilitating or leading the meeting, know what you want to accomplish. Have a plan – a purpose – a point. Unless your meeting is a brainstorming meeting with an empty whiteboard on the wall, your time together should have an agenda that moves your meeting along, keeping it focused and resulting in actions steps that serve the desired outcome. If you don’t have an agenda – anything to discuss, then don’t hold a meeting. I can’t tell you how many meetings I have been a part of  (or led for that matter) that didn’t have an agenda – and the sense of frustration that came along with those types of endless, pointless and actionless meetings. Nobody likes them, not even the leader  – so let’s stop.

A good practice is to send out the agenda ahead of time so your team is able to come prepared to offer solutions moving forward.

4. Keep meetings concise
Don’t go 30min when all you need is 10min. I am learning that meetings with an agenda, a described purpose, don’t go as long as ones without. I am also learning that very few meetings need to go longer than an hour. Honour the time of your team by starting (or arriving) on time and ending when you said you would.

One trick you can try is to run your meetings like the executives at Flickr, by having them standing up. Prior to their meetings everyone drinks 60oz of water, the understanding is, whoever needs to go the washroom first ends the meeting. Creative solution? Maybe. But I bet their meetings don’t ramble on.

5. Keep meetings focused
One of the biggest challenges when facilitating a meeting is keeping it focused and on point. As leaders/facilitators, try not to tackle too many issues in one meeting and make sure that everything that will be discussed is on the agenda. When new ideas or concepts arise (that are not on the agenda), be diligent at identifying and marking them down as backburners (good ideas that you don’t want to forget) or items for a future meeting.

6. Have action steps
I’ve been saying it throughout the points, but ruthlessly assign action steps. Identify and define what needs to be done and write them down – assign them – own them. Meetings are simply conversations if there are no actions steps that follow. Give your action steps deadlines and follow up on them. For most of us, this will have to become a new discipline, but if we are diligent in this process, we will see our meetings gain new life, purpose and effectiveness.

What do you think? What are some of the lessons you’re learning about hosting or running meetings?

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