The 8 Ps - Ingredients for getting the most out of your meetings

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11 light globes with the words success, agreement, plan, cooperation, deal, partnership, trust, collaboraton, strategy, communication and gaol spelt out in the globes filament

I often used to feel “meetinged out”: going through the motions of organising, attending and following up from meetings without really turning my mind to the mechanics of them. Sitting at the airport heading home after an exhausting week of meetings, my mind wandered to how many of them were actually necessary, whether they could have been more effective or less of an energy drain (and ideally, an energy filler instead). I created a list of ingredients - questions to ask myself before setting up or agreeing to attend a meeting. I’ve used them ever since and have a lot less exhausted “no more meetings” moments as a result.

  1. PRESSING – Is the meeting really necessary? Is it a pressing issue that requires us to come together or is there another way to achieve our goal?

  2. PLACE – Where will the meeting be held? Does it need to be face to face? Can it be (or more recently, must it be) virtual? Does it need to be a video meeting or is a voice call sufficient? As we have all experienced in the last year, Zoom calls can be exhausting! They take a lot of energy as our minds struggle to process all the visual and emotional cues through the screen. Sometimes, a voice call is less tiring and can be equally as effective. If the meeting is face to face, is the office the best place for it? Sometimes, getting out of the office can help clear the mind and keep people focused on a decision. Is an informal meeting over coffee the best approach or a more formal one over a meal?

  3. PURPOSE – So often, we call meetings or agree to attend one without asking the purpose of the meeting. If we take the time to understand this upfront, it is easier to keep everyone on the same page and focused on moving towards the desired outcome. Is the meeting to update people (provide information) or are we hoping to have a decision made? Are there other ways to achieve the objective such as an email? Sometimes the meeting is to “touch base” – this can be important for relationships, but it may not always be necessary for it to have a meeting.

  4. PEOPLE – Once we have a purpose, it is easier to establish who needs to be there to ensure that decisions can be made and next steps agreed without having to have a further meeting. If it is going to be a controversial meeting, are there people who could help to alleviate the tension with their presence? (On the flip side, who doesn’t need to be there? This is an equally important and often overlooked question. Are there people who hinder the process and aren’t vital to the discussions? Are there people who are being invited out of courtesy or fear of being reprimanded if they are left out but who add no value to the content of the meeting?)

  5. PREPARATION – Sending out a clear agenda expressing the length of the meeting and the intended outcomes, as well as any prereading or other necessary information is important. This step also helps introverts to prepare so that they can contribute comfortably to the discussions.

  6. PERIOD – How long does the meeting need to be? Setting a clear length for the meeting in advance ensures people can put aside the required time and be present in the meeting without juggling. It also helps manage people’s expectations on how long they have to get the information and make the decisions.

  7. PARTICIPATION – Be clear of what you expect of people at the meeting so they can be ready with the necessary information. Are they receiving information, learning a skill, satisfying a compliance requirement, sharing opinions and experiences or making decisions?

  8. PROCESS – If it is a recurring or regular meeting, having a set agenda or template for the minutes, can help everyone focus on the content rather than the process. Are there certain protocol which need to be followed – either for compliance or guided by company or personal expectations? I had one boss who insisted that we had our team meetings in the same meeting room at the same time each week and that we all sat in the same seats with the same notepads and had matching coffee cups. He believed that this routine ensured that we were focused on the content and not irrelevant details of process. Being clear on roles such as who will lead the meeting, who will keep the minutes, who will organise the room or link and other logistics aspects of the meeting ensures that process details don’t trip up the success of the meeting. It sounds obvious but so often time is wasted because no one took responsibility for sending around the link, or circulating the agenda or the minutes. We can avoid these potential issues by ticking the process box before the meeting.

Turning our mind to the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of meetings and running through the 8Ps in advance, can result in less meetings and better outcomes and contributions in the meetings we do have.