Tips for running great meetings

By Vicki Wrona, PMP:

I would like to share an invaluable resource for running effective meetings. This concise book goes beyond the obvious high-level discussion of running effective meetings such as what to do before, during and after the meeting, but really gets into the heart of how to practically run an effective meeting, both with large and small groups. The book is called Great Meetings! Great Results by Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey.

What I like about this book is that they discuss everything with regard to getting people together and getting results. This includes everything from understanding the purpose of the meeting and the audience to the techniques used to generate then classify and then select ideas to handling conflicts to breaking through creative blocks to making sure everyone clearly understands the outcome. Where else can you get so many concrete ideas in one concise place? I have found this to be a good reference book and have recommended it in my classes for years with good feedback from those who have used it.

One strength of this reference book is the section on breaking through creativity blocks to generate, evaluate and select ideas. We have all heard of various analytical techniques, but rarely are they used well. The most basic technique of all, that of brainstorming to generate ideas, is presented in ways to help your group avoid the most common pitfall of evaluating ideas too quickly. There is also a section on getting and keeping everyone involved at the appropriate level. Never again will you have meetings where people are allowed to sit and not participate. Anyone with ideas or knowledge will be engaged.

One of the techniques outlined in the book for large groups is an exercise called “Something in Common” which lets team members get to know each other a little better and to break the ice. Even if people have been working together for a long time, this is a fun and quick exercise.

First, pair participants up and ask each pair to find something unusual they have in common that they are willing to share with the larger group. Encourage them to go beyond the obvious and get creative. It is always amazing what people will come up with. Quickly go around the room and have each pair share their findings. I have had a lot of fun with competitive groups who try to outdo each other and be the pair with the most outrageous and true similarity. Then put two pairs together so that four people are now finding something in common. Again, encourage creativity and something else besides the items previously found. You can go around the room again and let each group share their results. Again, I direct them to do this quickly or else this exercise can take all day. J Lastly, you can let 8 people meet each other and find something in common if you choose. Obviously, the larger the group, the more “common” their similarities will be. The important thing, though, is not what they come up with but the sharing and discussion beyond normal work that they have.

I like that the book offers practical tips. For example, there are 3 case studies of one page each in length outlining how to handle:

  • An undercurrent of hostility between group members
  • When a participant attacks the facilitator
  • The nay-sayer during brainstorming sessions

There is a nice section with tips and examples on staying true to your values as well. I like that reminder, because we get tempted to stray from our gut and don’t hear that message often enough.

I hope this helps you. Please let me know what you think of this reference.

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