About a year ago, I realized that my life had turned into a series of bad meetings. The kind of meeting where very little is accomplished, people’s feelings are hurt, and most of the time is spent thinking about the work that could be getting done if we all weren’t stuck in this terrible meeting. Ick. Yuck. No good.
Instead of continuing my complaining before, during, and after each meeting, I decided to do something a bit more productive. Over a year ago, I started a series on my blog Lemon Lime Kids (lemonlimekids.com) in order to help eliminate bad meetings from my life forever! Every Monday for the last year, I’ve written a short tip for how to improve meetings. The series is called “Build a Better Meeting” (http://bit.ly/ieuc4n) and includes tips for leading great meetings, being a helpful participant, and improving follow-up after meetings. The project is a collaborative effort; oftentimes, children’s ministry leaders email with a tip they’ve recently applied to their meetings, and I feature it on the blog!
After 51 posts on how to build a better meeting, here’s what I’ve learned. Meetings are important! They help us connect with each other and accomplish tasks we aren’t able to do alone. And, I’ve learned that leading a great meeting takes work. It takes work before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting. A great meeting doesn’t usually happen accidentally. If you’re in charge of leading regular meetings, here are a few ideas for ensuring your meeting will be the talk of the town.
First, let’s talk about preparation. I’m convinced that preparation is the most important thing when it comes to leading great meetings. If you’ve called a meeting and are planning to lead that meeting, you must take time beforehand to fully prepare. Prepare by thinking through the goals for the meeting, the environment and resources needed, and any necessary information your participants will need from you in order to fully contribute to the meeting. Last week, I scheduled a pre-meeting in order to prepare for the real meeting. Ridiculous? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. By taking the time during the pre-meeting to discuss the details, collect information, and create a plan for communication, the actual meeting was brief and totally productive. In fact, we had scheduled 60 minutes for the actual meeting and wound up only needing 30. Fantastic!
The preparation work of the meeting has to be done sometime. It’s your choice whether you do it before the meeting or during the meeting. If you procrastinate preparing until the actual meeting, you waste participants’ time. They don’t want to do the preparation; they want to work. Prepare ahead of time and save everyone (including yourself) precious time for accomplishing goals during meetings.
Environments matter, especially when it comes to meetings. I always look forward to meetings when I know the environment will have been considered ahead of time, and I absolutely dread meetings when I know the environment wasn’t given the time of day!
1. Choose your location carefully. If you’re meeting in a church building and have your choice of rooms, choose the best room for the tone of your meeting. If it’s a casual, conversational type meeting, choose a room with rocking chairs and sofas. If it’s a formal, take notes type of meeting, choose a boardroom or classroom. If it’s a creative, brainstorm type meeting, consider a location off campus where participants will be inspired. Above all else, don’t default to whichever meeting room is available. Think ahead of time and choose wisely!
2. Rearrange the room. Once you’ve chosen your meeting location, rearrange the furniture in order to make it best for your group. Move tables, rearrange chairs, change the flip-chart location, whatever it takes to make the room perfect for accomplishing your goal. Most times when I request a meeting room to be set up a certain way, I still make a few tweaks before the meeting, because I can never fully anticipate what the room will feel like until I’m standing right in the middle of it.
3. Fill the room with inspiration. Once you’ve chosen your room, it’s time to fill it with things that will cause out-of-this-world creativity and brilliant thinking! Consider the goal of your meeting and how you can fill the room with objects that will help accomplish that goal. If your goal is to relationally connect with each other, consider adding baby pictures of participants as placemats. If your goal is to solve a problem, consider adding small mind games and puzzles so that the group can get their brains moving! If you hope to brainstorm new ideas, consider adding art supplies and fun toys so that participants have tools for creative thinking.