As I’ve mentioned on twitter a few times my current team has a lot of meetings and apart from using the passive aggressive approach that Toby Tripp’s meeting ticker provides I’ve also been flicking through Chapter 19, ‘Guerilla Collaboration’, of Jean Tabaka’s ‘Collaboration Explained: Facilitation skills for software project leaders‘ which gives other ideas.
I’ve also seen some useful ideas that my colleagues have used in meetings that I’ve been part of.
Agenda/Purpose of the meeting
Jean suggests that we ask the meeting organiser for an agenda in order to ensure that:
- We aren’t wasting the time of some participants
- We aren’t missing any important attendees
- The meeting has a focus and people aren’t at a loss for what to do
I’ve noticed the 1st and 3rd of these happening more frequently and it’s typically because the topic of the meeting is very generic which means that anything goes!
Calling for a time check is useful for helping ensure that the time in the meeting is being used effectively and that the meeting doesn’t over run the allocated time.
Having a start and end time for the meeting is also useful because otherwise a meeting can drift on for hours without any conclusion.
Creating a constraint – of time in this case – helps to keep things a bit more focused and in theory could lead to move creativity.
Keeping the discussion on track
This is typically easier for the meeting facilitator to do but it’s certainly possible for an attendee to ask whether a certain discussion is relevant or if it can be taken offline.
I find that discussions can often drift into implementation detail i.e. the wrong logging level and totally isolate the majority of the meeting’s participants.
It’s certainly important to be careful when doing this because you might be wrong about what ‘on track’ means and people can quickly stop contributing if you consistently shut them down.
This would typically just be a section of the whiteboard used to ‘park’ discussions about topics which we can get to later but aren’t part of the purpose of the meeting.
I haven’t seen this used that often but it seems like a useful technique because it still acknowledges that someone has a valid point, just that it’s not for discussion at the moment.