Is your day filled with meetings that result in wasted time? Creating a thoughtful agenda is the optimal way to set your meetings on the right path. But sometimes, you just don’t have the bandwidth or — let’s be honest — the habit of writing a full agenda. In this case, what’s the one thing you should do before any meeting?
In my work helping teams and organizations improve their meeting culture, I’ve found this act to be the single most important element of any meeting, whether it’s an impromptu conversation or a planned meeting.
This act defines what success will look like for your meeting. Without it, you’re just a group of people gathering for a conversation with no clear purpose: Pleasant, maybe, but not effective because you’re unlikely to move work forward. A meeting’s desired outcome is the specific result you want to achieve in the meeting.
By first identifying the meeting’s objective, you can then decide who to invite, assign them pre-reading materials, and design an agenda that will facilitate the team to achieve the desired outcome. It also helps you to consider whether a meeting is the most appropriate way to achieve the goal or whether an email or other form of communication might suffice.
OK, so you’re ready to commit to defining desired outcomes. How can you do so effectively?
The best way to write a meeting objective that you can actually measure is to begin with a noun, rather than a verb. This is a subtle and important difference. It’s easy and compelling to write verb statements such as “to decide” or “to brainstorm,” but these are not specific, measurable outcomes.
When you write an outcome that begins with a noun, you’ll have taken a meeting activity and turned it into a concrete result. You can then use this as a metric to determine if your meeting was successful. Set the meeting objective to clarify what you’ll accomplish, not just what you’ll do during the meeting.
Try using any of these phrases to write strong, desired outcomes:
When you establish a desired outcome, you reframe meetings as a collaborative context where things get done.
Once you’ve written a concrete outcome, don’t forget about it! Remind yourself and your team of what you’re trying to achieve in these ways:
As you begin to use desired outcomes to guide meeting conversations, your meetings will become more efficient, productive and, dare I say, enjoyable.
Make sure you download a free chapter from Meeteor’s upcoming book, Momentum: Creating Effective, Engaging and Enjoyable Meetings, before it’s available in November, 2017.