How to Have Better Meetings

Don’t begin or end with logistics.


In this backstage interview from Leadercast Women 2019, Priya Parker, author and founder of Thrive Labs, shares a couple of things leaders can do to improve their meetings. 

The first is to know why you’re meeting. “What's the purpose of this meeting?” asks Priya. “What is the desired outcome?"

Another way is to never start or end with logistics. “People's attention are highest at the first 5 percent and the last 5 percent of an experience,” she says. “Don't outsource that to logistics. Help them understand the purpose.”

Watch the video to learn more from Priya about how to have better meetings.

Some of the best ways to have a better meeting: First, know why you're meeting; know the purpose. Whether a guest or a host, you can ask, "What's the purpose of this meeting? What is the purpose? What is the desired outcome of this meeting?" One of the biggest mistakes we make is the more obvious-seeming the purpose, the less likely we are to ask the purpose, the more likely we are to skip it, and we end up just going through routine formats of like an all-hands or a staff meeting or a board meeting.

Think about how you open and think about how you close. Never start with logistics, never end with logistics. Do them second to last. Why? Because people's attention are highest at the first 5 percent and the last 5 percent of an experience. At the beginning, it's kind of like, "Oh, what's going to happen here?" And at the end it's like, "When am I going to get out of here?" But either way, your attention's up. Don't outsource that to logistics. Help them understand the purpose. The purpose is what you want out of the meeting.

And at the beginning of a meeting, connect your group to each other, protect them from each other and temporarily equalize them. The more powerful way to start a meeting is to have everybody go around and answer a question that's relevant to the purpose. So for example, there was a pharmaceutical company that a colleague of mine worked for, and they were gathering a group of leaders, a group of people around analyzing a set of data for maternal mortality studies. And they asked a specific question to start the meeting, and they asked this question: “What is something about your mother that people wouldn't be able to tell by looking at her?”

So this question did a couple of different things. First, it temporarily equalized the group. All of a sudden, yes, you're not going to make a CEO and an intern pretend that they're not in a hierarchy, but for 10 minutes, you remind them they are all children. They all have a parent.

But then second, it reminds them over the course of the day to treat some of this data the same way they would hope others would treat the people in their life. But basically, thinking about how to ask a question that relates people to the content of the room quickly but also connects them to each other in a way that doesn't get them just to play the role you expect them to play.
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Priya Parker

Priya Parker is a master facilitator, strategic advisor, acclaimed author of "The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters" and founder of Thrive Labs. Priya has spent 15 years helping leaders and communities have complicated ...

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