If your weekly calendar is a honeycomb of meetings, meetings and more meetings, it’s likely you come out of many of them feeling frustrated by how little was accomplished. There was an agenda, and it seemed to be a comprehensive one, but when time ran out only a few items had actually been addressed. More often than not, not many of them were even the items you attended the meeting to talk about.
A little direction can go a long way, particularly when a group of people with different priorities and workloads come together to share their thoughts. It might be vital that everyone have their say but, unless everyone is aware what needs to be achieved, it can be difficult to make that happen.
Fortunately, there’s a simple technique that makes every moment you spend in meeting rooms worthwhile, by making sure that the right people are engaged on the right problem. Meeting Outcomes are central to holding productive meetings because they both provide a solid goal for the group to achieve and help to keep everyone focused on achieving it. Perhaps most importantly of all, you can be sure, right at the beginning of the meeting, that it’s the goal you want to be working towards.
So, what's a Meeting Outcome?Essentially, a Meeting Outcome is a brief description of what you will make, decide or generate during a meeting. For example, you might want to create a strategy or generate buy-in or enthusiasm. A Meeting Outcome provides a solid goal for your meeting’s attendees to achieve. It does this by creating a description of “what” will be made, decided or generated during the meeting.
By contrast, an agenda provides a path through the meeting - a description of “how” that Meeting Outcome will be achieved. Meeting Outcomes allow you to be clear on your ability and desire to help achieve the Outcome, which in turn ensures that the people in the meeting room are interested and eager to actively engage.
How can you use Meeting Outcomes to drive your meetings?
1. Write a description of the Outcome
If you are leading the meeting, write a brief description of what you intend the group to make, decide or generate during that meeting, which you will then include in the meeting invitation. If you are an attendee, you could suggest the meeting leader do this, or prepare an Outcome on their behalf.
The best Meeting Outcomes are an expression of a problem that needs to be solved, in the form of a question. Examples include:
- Do we have action plans for addressing the most important risks? OR
- Do we have a basic understanding of how we will be working together? OR
- Do we all agree on the new team structure?
The second reason, and some may argue the more important reason, is that a question forces everyone to think about the answer: rather than just saying “done”, you have to think about whether the answer is “yes” or “no”.
2. Verify you have a compelling Outcome
The Meeting Outcome needs to be clear and specific and you’ll want to aim for an Outcome that can be realistically completed in a single session. It’s usually best to have just one Meeting Outcome, whenever possible, to encourage focus.3. If necessary, break the Outcome down
If your Meeting Outcome is too large to be completed in a single session, break it down into smaller ones that the group can achieve within each session.
4. Communicate the Outcome and invite participation
Make sure every potential participant receives the description of the Meeting Outcome, opening up the invitation list as widely as possible. Not everyone will have a vested interest in achieving the Meeting Outcome; it might fall outside their expertise, or relate to a project that person isn’t working on, or it might simply be something they aren’t interested in. Giving every potential participant the Meeting Outcome beforehand allows them to make a well-informed decision about their participation. If the passion isn’t there, nor should be the participant. Open up the invitation list to as many relevant people as you can and you will find that the people who choose to attend the meeting are those who are most passionate about achieving its’ Outcome.