The Plot of your Meeting

Greg Thomas

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Where does it start, what happens in the middle and how does it conclude? Throw in a little tension and some pacing and you’ve got a story that people will go to the theatre to see, buy a book, or binge-watch all weekend long.

Your meetings can be like that too — they can have a strong start that lets people know why they need to be there, and they can keep things quick and to the point without going off on tangents in every direction so no one knows what is happening and they can end one of two ways — a beautifully wrapped, perfectly packaged gift or a dynamic cliffhanger that leaves them pounding the door to get to the next one (I’m looking at you weekly status update meetings).

I’ve already spoken to how every one of your meetings needs to have ambition, so if you’re already doing those things, you’re halfway there.

How to Start

First off, don’t start with — “Everyone go around and introduces yourself” — no one wants to do that, no one wants to hear about Fred’s hobbies. Instead, kick everyone as soon as it’s time to start — “Everyone tells us what you’re here to contribute and what you want to get out of this meeting” — now they are on the spot, perhaps a little tense because “Oh no I have to do stuff now and can’t hide” that’s great, that’s the idea. You’re not here for people to listen, you’re here to get things done. And to drive the point home further, if people aren’t there on time, get going, you don’t have all day, problems to solve, and successes to build on. Everyone knows what you’re trying to get done and the minimal amount of time you have to do it.

From there lay out 3 things you’ll be doing in this meeting, keep it short, keep it concise. Do not end your intro with — “If we have time for other stuff we can discuss” — people might try to tack these on as extra talking points, but don’t let them, that’s not the focus. If they want to talk about those other items, have them set up their meeting (I’ll revisit this at the end).

The Middle

This is the hardest to control in any meeting, everyone wants to have a say and people are always looking to take your meeting in places you never wanted it to go. Think of it this way, you’re Apollo 13, you have limited Amps to get home and there is only one…

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Greg Thomas

Software Architect, Developer, Author and Leader helping organizations build scalable software delivery teams and implement cloud-based solutions