Stephen Smith at Productivity in Context points out that it's the group dynamics of meetings, not the meetings themselves, that can create problems. The result can be groupthink, a tendency for higher-status attendees to feign knowledge to save face, limited contributions by lower-ranking employees who fear rejection, and reduced individual accountability.
As a meeting leader or facilitator, there are six things you can do to increase a meeting's value or productivity, he says:
- Establish (and express) your own belief in the value of group work. If you don't think that the meeting is a good idea, no one else will either.
- Set clear goals for the meeting right at the start. Setting a goal for the group lets the attendees know that they are accountable for the success of the meeting.
- Create an avenue for back-and-forth communication. Meetings, even for presentations, should be more like a press conference than an address. If the attendees have no means or reason to interact, then you might as well just record a video and send it out.
- Distribute the power and responsibility. As the leader of a meeting you can increase participation by assigning roles to discussion leaders, having multiple presenters, and being sure to ask open-ended (rather than yes-or-no) questions. At the end of the meeting, have a list of who is responsible for each next action -- and when it's due.
- Encourage and acknowledge every participant's contributions to the meeting. By showing sincerity and trust, you can truly get more from the group than from the sum of its parts.
- Finally, say thank you. It's an easy yet powerful way to acknowledge your attendees' time and input.