n the fast-paced, ever-changing world of meetings, our objective at FirstAgenda is to help others optimize. Pure and simple. Day in, day out, we scan the market for the latest trends within productivity, technology and meetings, and then we share our tips and tricks with you.
But how about our own meetings? Do we practice what we preach?
Last year, we stopped and took a long, hard look at ourselves. We realized that we weren’t using all the expert knowledge we had on hand, and tips such as “arrive on time,” “remember a thorough agenda” and “summarize the decisions” were easier said than done.
Our company saw great potential for boosting productivity by changing our ingrained habits, and so I (Sisse Haldrup) sat down with Bo Hansen from the development department. Together, we took up the challenge and started “Project Better Meeting Culture.”
We launched with a workshop, which we held during our kick-off trip to Riga in 2018. There we racked our brains to pinpoint the areas we needed to improve. The workshop resulted in more post-its than wall space, but we finally rooted out the patterns, and compiled them into these eight categories:
Let's walk the talk
After our joint workshop, Bo and I worked out a project process, which would last a year. We split the process into five phases with two problem statements in each. For example, in the first phase we would only focus on arriving on time and remembering to use our meeting app. In phase two, we would focus on remembering to invite relevant meeting participants and summarizing at the end. Thus, we diligently persisted, avoiding the trap of trying to swallow too many new habits at once.
Find more inspiration here: New Habits May Give New Life to Meetings
Before we began Project Better Meeting Culture, Bo and I sent out a questionnaire to all our co-workers. A year later, at the end of the project, we sent out the same questionnaire once again. But that’s where any similarity ended. The results were clear. An improvement on all points!
Here are a few examples of the questions we asked our colleagues:
QUESTION 1: On average, how often do you prepare before a meeting? (read documents, setup screens, collect numbers, make a presentation, etc.)
Based on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is “never prepared” and 10 is “always prepared.”
QUESTION 2: How many of the meeting invitations you create have an agenda?
Based on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is “none of the invitations” and 10 is “all of the invitations.”
QUESTION 3: How often do your meetings end with a “sum up” with clear next steps?
Based on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is “never” and 10 is “always.”
The results above clearly show that our project has changed our in-house meeting culture. We don’t score top marks (and that probably won’t ever happen in a fast-growing scale-up with ad hoc meetings around every corner), but in only a short period of time, we have moved in the right direction!
The most important part is that people are more focused on the problem, and we can now help solve it by reminding each other of the lessons we’ve learned in the process.
Here’s how you can purloin the process
Could your meetings use some optimization as well? If so, there are plenty of reasons to copy our project. An improved meeting culture comes with a lot of benefits:
👉 Increased productivity
👉 Increased job satisfaction
👉 Better business decisions
👉 Fewer misunderstandings
👉 More innovative ideas
👉 Better teamwork
👉 And the list goes on…
After ending the project, we have gained some important insights, which we can now share with you in the form of three success criteria:
1. FIND AMBASSADORS
The most important criterion for the success of the project has been to find ambassadors in each department (preferably from the management), who think that this process is a great idea, and want to advocate the project. Our advice is: spot those people, include them in the decisions and give them responsibility to make the process run smoothly - this gives them a natural pride and sense of responsibility for the project. However, it is important to point out that the ambassadors shouldn’t play “police” and uphold rules such as “arrive on time” and “remember the agenda.” They should simply be role models, there to motivate and kindly remind their colleagues about the ongoing process.
2. TAKE SMALL STEPS
Trying to change ingrained habits while caught in the bustle of a busy workday can overwhelm the best of us - especially if you’re asked to change them all at once! For that vitally important reason, we have only focused on developing two meeting habits at a time. You might even find it better to take only one meeting habit at a time! It keeps focus sharp and makes it easier to remember. Don’t move into the next phase before you have seen an actual change.
3. USE GAMIFICATIONWe quickly realized that games and competitions are effective methods for motivating our colleagues and making the whole process a little more fun! For example, you can share an anonymous poll after each phase: “Who was the meeting superstar of the month?” - and reward that person with a small prize. Your imagination is the limit!
Have we inspired you to change the meeting culture in your own company? Write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll happily send you materials, questionnaires and slides that you can use to run your own workshop or project.
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