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How to run amazing meetings

This post is a summary of Chapter 6, "Amazing Meetings", from The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo.

Good meetings are simple and straightforward. Practice clarity and ruthless efficiency with your meetings, and people will thank you for respecting the sanctity of their time.

You leave good meetings feeling the same way every time:

  • The meeting was a great use of my time.
  • I learned something new that will help me be more effective at my job.
  • I left with a clearer sense of what I should do next.
  • Everyone was engaged.
  • I felt welcomed.

Think beforehand: What does a great outcome look like for this meeting?

Meeting should generally have only one purpose. There are five different purposes a meeting can have.

Making a decision

A great decision-making meeting does the following:

  • Gets a decision made
  • Includes the people most directly affected by the decision as a clearly designated decision-maker
  • Presents all credible options objectively and with relevant background information, and includes the team's recommendation if there is one
  • Gives equal airtime to dissenting opinions and makes people feel that they were heard

Sharing information

A great informational meeting achieves the following:

  • Enables the group to feel like they learned something valuable
  • Conveys key messages clearly and memorably
  • Keeps the audience's attention (through dynamic speakers, rich storytelling, skilled pacing, interactivity)
  • Evokes an intended emotion – whether inspiration, trust, pride, courage, empathy, etc.

Providing feedback

A great feedback meeting achieves the following:

  • Gets everyone on the same page about success for the project looks like
  • Honestly represents the current status of the work, including an assessment of how things are going, any changes since the last check-in, and what the future plans are
  • Clearly frames open questions, key decisions, or known concerns to get the most helpful feedback
  • Ends with agreed-upon next steps, including when the next milestone or check-in will be

Generating ideas

A great generative meeting does the following:

  • Produces many diverse, nonobvious solutions through ensuring each participant has quiet alone time to think of ideas and write them down (either before or during the meeting)
  • Considers the totality of ideas from everyone, not just the loudest voices
  • Helps ideas evolve and build off each other through meaningful discussion
  • Ends with clear next steps for how to turn ideas into action

Strengthening relationships

A great team-bonding meeting enables the following:

  • Creates better understanding and trust between participants
  • Encourages people to be open and authentic
  • Makes people feel cared for

Every meeting should be clear on which of the above it's trying to accomplish. Don't try to make a single meeting do too much, and remind the group of its primary purpose when the conversation starts to deviate. Decision meeting is not a good place for generating ideas.