5 Rules to Facilitate Awesome Meetings
The majority of meetings sucks, the majority of people don’t want to be in meetings, and the majority of meetings are useless, often without any actionable items to do afterwards. Meetings cause context switching which tire the brain and consume mental resources necessary to deliver work.
Nevertheless, meetings are important as a means of alignment and planning. Below are my 5 rules to help you facilitate more productive, awesome meetings.
The 10 Minute Rule
Research consistently shows that the human brain is not capable of concentrating for longer than 20 minutes. TED talks never last longer than 18 minutes, and the late Steve Jobs in his keynote presentations always pivoted every 10 minutes (either with demos, videos, or even introducing a new speaker). Equally, when facilitating a meeting. Endeavour always to break facilitation in 10 minute blocks, the best way to do this is to ask the attendees if they have any questions, ask for feedback, or comments; or even make space for another facilitator. Use these opportunities to drive further discussion and debate.
Favour the Problem over the Agenda Rule
Meetings without agendas are bad, meetings with agendas are better, but meetings that are focussed on solving a problem are the best, even if those meetings diverge from the said agenda.
A continuous nudge towards solving the problem at hand should always be favoured over a previously set agenda. The best meeting facilitators are those who can understand that a conversation or debate within a meeting has surpassed the need for an agenda and let the conversation flow into attempting to solve the problem at hand.
The Convergence Rule
Meetings are not work, generally people don’t want to be at meetings as they lift them out of the work they’re supposed to be doing. When discussing or brainstorming ideas during meetings, ensure that there is some level of convergent thinking occurring. This convergence doesn’t necessarily need to be concrete actionable items, but at least some level of decision to move forward with the problem being solved.
Dynamic Over Static Content Rule
Never use slides, never. In fact, delete keynote or PowerPoint decks from any meeting facilitation that you may have. They are boring and condescending. A meeting facilitator isn’t a lecturer and slides lend themselves to trying to deliver as much boring (often useless) information as possible. The human brain can’t process and store every bullet point written on a slide.
Favour collaboration tools like Mural or Jamboard as well as ‘techniques’ to facilitate ideas and meetings like story mapping or impact mapping.
The Silence Rule
Do not ever be afraid of silence in meetings. Silence is a powerful force that allows very smart, interior thinkers within your team to form their ideas in a succinct way. When a meeting facilitator does not have silent pauses in their meetings, they are doing themselves and their team a disservice by not giving these interior members the space necessary to form and express their ideas. I have expressed my opinion, in more detail on this topic in my previous blog post.
Finally, meeting facilitation, like any skill, often requires hours of good practice and feedback. When facilitating meetings attempt to gather feedback on yourself regularly, be aware of your weaknesses, and continue to practice. Watch over the meetings that have been recorded and look out for filler words and nervous ticks that you may have.
I believe using the above 5 rules and practice will make you a better meeting facilitator and presenter overall. All the best!