Three tips to have a better meeting

I recently did a presentation on how to have better meetings and thought I’d share three key meeting communication tips with you as well.

1. Understand we aren’t logical beings!

Behavioral economics, the study of why humans make the economic decisions we do tells us a lot about why meetings go astray. There are three primary concepts to understand within this.

First, we struggle to make process information & effectively plan. This is due to many bias and fallacies. Even when we try not to, we have big egos and when we feel crummy about ourselves, we make bad decisions. We also struggle to focus on more than one thing at a time. For example, have you ever turned down the radio so you can see your turn while driving?

Second, people care (in part) about how their circumstances compare to reference points. We try so hard avoiding to care about what other people think, but our brains care. We also all think we are above average and right most of the time (yes, me too!)

Third, people have self-control problems. Primarily, we care more about ourselves today than we do about ourselves in the future (why I’ll eat that doughnut even though I’m on a diet).

2. Try to practice effective communication skills

To minimize distractions & competing priorities in meetings try to create an optimal environment. Did you know, over 70% of communication is nonverbal? It’s really not what you say, but how you say it- and that includes what you say with the space you’re in. There are two key tips to effective communication. First, listen to understand. Ask questions when you don’t understand something or don’t get the response you hoped for. Truly try to understand what the other person is saying, don’t just listen for how you can respond. Second, use “I” statements. It can keep communication clear and make people less defensive. Try this framework:

I feel _________ when _________. What I need is ___________.

it works almost every time!

3. Use a meeting framework.

The pre-meeting prep

Before the meeting take 15 minutes to decide the one big thing you’d like to get out of the meeting. It could be:

  • Sharing successes
  • Working through a challenge
  • Purely a status update
  • Building rapport
  • Making an ask

once you’ve decided this, look over your notes from your last meeting. Is there anything you need to follow up on or bring up? What have you achieved since the last meeting? Celebrate those wins! If you don’t advocate for yourself, no one will. Last, if you’re going to make an ask or need help, think ahead about some potential solutions that would actually be helpful. People love to help, but sometimes need guidance on what is actually helpful. After you’ve brainstormed it’s time for the pre-meeting communication. Send an email with your intent and any prep you need them to do, ask if they’d like to add anything. No one likes being taken off guard and this helps.

The effective meeting

The most effective meetings have three parts: clear communication, a comfortable space, and stick to the agreed upon discussion. You can do this! Use active listening skills and follow this meeting framework:

  • Opening, rapport building
  • Goal of the meeting
  • Recap of last time
  • What’s going well
  • What’s been a challenge
  • What they want to add
  • The most important part
  • Next steps & follow up

As long as the space is comfortable for both parties, you’ve been actively engaged, and been clear about the intent of the meeting, you should have a much more effective meeting!

The follow up

It’s easy to forget, but it’s a critical part of the framework. Follow up! Send an email recap including what you discussed, what you’ll do, and what they will do. Don’t forget to thank them for their time, too. This follow up gives you a reference point so you don’t forget what you discussed, and can keep both parties accountable.

Wrapping up

Effective communication and having better meetings can be really challenging. By using these tips you can have better meetings with donors, board members, community collaborators, and your team. As always, if you want to know more, give me a call!