Here is a brief excerpt from an article by Jeff Weiner that was featured by LinkedIn. To read the complete article and check out others, please click here.
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Ask your team to identify their biggest productivity killer and inevitably two issues will rise to the top of the list: managing their inboxes and their meeting schedules. I’ll tackle the former in a future post. For now, I’d like to focus on increasing the value of meetings by sharing a practice our team has implemented to great effect.
At LinkedIn, we have essentially eliminated the presentation. In lieu of that, we ask that materials that would typically have been presented during a meeting be sent out to participants at least 24 hours in advance so people can familiarize themselves with the content.
Bear in mind: Just because the material has been sent doesn’t mean it will be read. Taking a page out of Jeff Bezos’ book, we begin each meeting by providing attendees roughly 5-10 minutes to read through the deck. If people have already read it, this gives them an opportunity to refresh their memory, identify areas they’d like to go deeper on, or just catch up on email.
If the idea of kicking off a meeting with up to 10 minutes of silence strikes you as odd, you’re not alone. The first time I read about this practice it immediately conjured up images of a library or study hall, two of the last forums I would equate with meeting productivity. However, after the first few times you try it, not only won’t it be awkward — it will be welcome. This is particularly true when meetings end early with participants agreeing it was time well spent.
Once folks have completed the reading, it’s time to open it up for discussion. There is no presentation. It’s important to stay vigilant on this point as most people who prepared the materials will reflexively begin presenting. If you are concerned about appearing insensitive by not allowing individuals who worked hard on the materials to have their moment, constructively remind the group this is a new practice that is being applied to the entire company and will benefit all meeting attendees, including the artist formerly known as The Presenter.
With the presentation eliminated, the meeting can now be exclusively focused on generating a valuable discourse: Providing shared context, diving deeper on particularly cogent data and insights, and perhaps most importantly, having a meaningful debate.
If the material has been well thought out and simply and intuitively articulated, chances are the need for clarifying questions will be kept to a minimum. In these situations, you may be pleasantly surprised to see a meeting that had been scheduled for an hour is actually over after 20-30 minutes.
Of course, even the best prepared material may reach a highly contentious recommendation or conclusion. However, the good news is meeting attendees will now be able to dig into the subject matter and share their real opinions rather than waste time listening to an endless re-hashing of points they’re already familiar with, or worse still find irrelevant or redundant.
In addition to eliminating presentations in favor of discussions, the following [two of six] are a few additional practices I’ve learned along the way when it comes to running effective meetings:
1. Define the objective of the meeting. Asking one simple question at the onset of the meeting, “What is the objective of this meeting,” can prove invaluable in terms of ensuring everyone is on the same page and focused on keeping the meeting on point, rather than allowing it to devolve down endless rat holes unrelated to the matter at hand. I’ve seen some companies go as far as including the meeting objective on the cover sheet of the materials.
2. Identify who is driving. Each meeting needs one person behind the wheel. More than one driver and it’s going to be prohibitively difficult to keep the car on the road. The primary role of this point person is to ensure the conversation remains relevant, that no one person ends up dominating the discussion, and that adjunct discussions that arise during the course of the meeting are taken offline.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn.