How to be a Meeting Rockstar
What type of a meeting do you want to have?
Directed Meeting: This is quarterbacked by a single person (let’s call him the Manager). The Manager talks to his colleagues, perhaps asking questions. Usually there’s no collaboration between the participants. This is the most over-used and boring style of meeting. However, Directed Meetings are useful when managers need to address a crisis or pressing problem.
Presentations are meetings where one person presents information on a specific topic. There’s no collaboration, aside from questions, usually at the end. Presentations are useful. Just make sure the speaker knows his stuff, has pertinent material, and keeps it lively.
Status Reports are presentations, but often with several experts. Again, there is no collaboration. Use them to convey information. That’s it. Often you can accomplish the same goal with a note, newsletter, or blog. Don’t have meetings for the sake of having meetings!
Collaborative Meetings: The Manager delegates topics to his colleagues. In turn, the colleagues present those topics to the entire group. This has three big advantages over the “Directed Meeting”. First, participants learn presentation skills. Second, engagement is higher because the meeting is a team effort, rather than a Manager monologue. Third, the Manager can learn from others, rather than preach from the podium. It is an easy upgrade from the Directed Meeting. Collaborative Meetings simply more interesting.
Collaborative meetings are a step forward, but you need a few more riffs to be a Rockstar:
Time: This is easy. Start on time, and end on time. Why? Because your colleagues have schedules. Respect those schedules by sticking to your own schedule. And if you finish the meeting early, adjourn. That’s another way to boost engagement.
Agenda: Explain why you are meeting, topics covered, and the length of the meeting. Leave space so that others can add topics to the agenda. The agenda explains who will cover various topics (i.e., collaborative meeting). Share the agenda before the meeting.
Sequence: Stick to the agenda. Issues will be covered according to the agenda – item ‘A’ comes before item ‘B’ and so forth. Yes, the meeting can go in an unexpected direction, but that change must be accepted by the participants. Resist the urge to explore detours, unless everyone is on board to do so. Normally, new items should be reserved for subsequent meetings, of work groups.
W3 = Who? What? When?
Explain who will implement action plans. What will they do? When will action plan be implemented? If action plans entail multiple steps, you need specific milestones. Be clear on what is expected. What does success look like?
Minutes: Keep minutes because they explain what was agreed, who does what, and by what date. Bang out the minutes within 24 hours of the meeting.
Use these riffs to boost your effectiveness. Focus groups, learning circles, and other liberating structures have different dynamics; nevertheless, they follow the same core principles.
This is simple, but not easy. And the rewards of following these rules are worth the effort.
Don’t be boring, when you can rock.
Peter Labrie – Founder, Art of Leadership Consulting
Cabral, A. (2018, April 16) 8 Steps to Rock Your Next Meeting. Govloop. Retrieved from
Lipmanowicz, H. & McCandless, K. (2013). The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures. El
Paso, TX: Liberating Structures Press