For a startup, meetings can be exciting, fun, and inspiring. However, it happens all too often that the discussions we enjoy begin thwarting and suffocating our creativity. No meeting has directly funded a venture or made anyone money. There’s no denying that meeting team members in person is important, but there’s a fine line between a meeting that’s useful and one that’s downright damaging.
Action should precede structure when you’re organizing a meeting in a dynamic startup because change is the only constant. Sometimes, it’s quite the opposite.
How do you know a meeting is about to become a major waste of time? Here are some signs.
Bad Meetings: Warning Signs
Table of Contents
- Bad Meetings: Warning Signs
- Causes of Destructive Meetings
- How to Put your Meetings back on the Right Track
- Meeting Types and Recommended Duration
- Easier Said than Done?
Let’s say you’ve had a few meetings attended by all the decision-makers and experts you needed, and they were great. Before you know it, team get-togethers morph into a force of habit. You meet, but you don’t know why. Nobody will volunteer to start the meeting. Once it does, nobody is taking notes, or the person who is supposed to be is doodling in their notebooks. No plan of action is discussed. Instead, people converse on general, startup related topics. The meeting has no outcome and everyone leaves it more tired than when they came.
Video: Save yourself from bad meetings by David Grady
Causes of Destructive Meetings
There are several main causes of destructive meetings, which we’ll go into below.
1. No Lead and No Goals
The person who called the meeting has not set goals or designated a lead. What’s more, they themselves don’t lead. There’s no one in charge of facilitating the meeting and making sure it goes as planned. In this case, a professional facilitator can prove indispensible.
2. No Items on the Agenda
At startup meetings, attendees are prone to automatically run through agenda items in random order. Items are not addressed systematically. In many cases, there are no items on the agenda at all. A meeting without an agenda is doomed to fail. Lack of agenda translates to lack of focus and lack of solutions.
3. Nobody is Taking Notes
Reliable notes can help people who learn visually understand key topics better. They’re also a great way to bring those who didn’t attend the meeting up to speed. Notes keep a record of proposed solutions to problems to be confirmed in the future. There are free templates for taking notes. Facebook is one possible provider.
4. No Influencers are Present
It’s a bad sign if no influencers or decision-makers are present at the meeting. The first step is making sure every participant has a clear role. People need to know why they are at this meeting. The next step is for the lead to ask themselves whether they have someone present who can approve actions or authorize tactics on behalf of the startup.
5. Little Energy in the Room
Energy is a crucial component of effective leadership, and attendees take their cues and energy from the leader. If this person is unresponsive and slow, everyone else is bound to go off into meandering conversations or feel just as disinterested.
How to Put your Meetings back on the Right Track
Begin by establishing your goal. There are four possible meeting goals: developing relationships, sharing information, finding a solution to a problem, or making a decision. Ask yourself what the goal of a meeting is before you decide to call one. Then, see if there isn’t another way to fulfill this aim, for example by phone, through the startup’s blog or site, or through an informal whiteboard. Examples of a clear goal include drafting a marketing plan for the next year or establishing marketing campaign metrics.
Having an agenda is crucial. For attendees to derive maximum benefit from a meeting, you need a designated meeting or discussion leader, a bullet point list of items to be addressed, and someone to record meeting notes.
Here are some other tips by Adriana Girdler:
Meeting Types and Recommended Duration
Last but not least, a few words about types of meetings and how long each one should go on for. The most common type for startups is collaborative editing. This is where a group of people get together to launch or complete a task or project. It involves a great deal of creativity. Normally, these meetings go on for 30 to 60 minutes.
The next most frequent type is the planning session. At these meetings, people plan events, tasks, or projects or assign functions and roles. You need a highly energetic leader. Again, these meetings typically continue for 30 to 60 minutes.
Then, there is the presentation. Admittedly, few people look forward to this type of meeting. However, a well-timed presentation followed by a structured Q&A session can be engaging and memorable. It shouldn’t exceed half an hour.
Finally, we have project updates and general updates. Both of these types serve to update the team on current developments within the company. The former is more detail-oriented and involves specific projects. Update meetings should be fun, high-energy, and less than 15 minutes long.
Easier Said than Done?
While these tips are guaranteed to work, we know things are easier said than done. It’s difficult to create structure because it involves establishing new ways of doing things. New rules can feel restrictive and stifling to startups.
Process improvement facilitation will make your job easier. A professional facilitator is highly trained and experienced in process improvement and possesses the skills necessary to guide your startup’s team in reaching optimal solutions at meetings.
Author Bio: Sylvia Peters is a Collaborator for Find A Facilitator and a mother of two.She’s also an expert to bringing the most credible, experienced and personable facilitation to every meeting she attended. In her free time you will find her meditating and making her favorite salad.