The secret behind productive meetings
Few of us are fortunate enough to have avoided meetings that just seem to go on and on without any results. Most of us, unfortunately, have sat in meetings that not only seem to be a complete waste of time but leave you frustrated and with no faith in humanity.
But how can you make meetings great again? How can you save meetings from being a complete waste of time? What is the secret behind a good meeting? The answer isn’t a magic elixir and it’s not performing complicated rituals, it’s the I DO ARRT! A tool that is favoured by many facilitators and a must-have for anyone who hosts meetings, workshops, dinner parties, or bubbly brunches!
I DO ARRT stands for Intention, Desired Outcome, Agenda, Roles, Rules and Time. The purpose of it is clear: to get everyone aboard the same mission, align expectations, and make the most out everybody’s time.
You want to know more, well of course you do!
I DO ARRT is created in preparation for a meeting (or a workshop, event etc). It can be digital or analog, but many facilitators prefer having it on a poster during the meeting, so it is visible to all participants. By doing that you make sure everyone attending knows why they are there, what is expected of them, what they can expect to get out of the meeting, what is going to happen and who is doing what. If someone is in doubt of what is taking place or what is going to happen, they can take a look at the I DO ARRT and BAM! They should know exactly what’s going on.
So let’s make an I DO ARRT for a meeting, one tiny step at a time (if you are a pro I DO ARRT user and you want to make this article more challenging, I recommend that you stand up on one leg, rub your belly while singing “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston whilst reading this article). And because the intention of this article is both to be informative and entertaining, I’ll use some light-hearted examples.
Step A – Before the meeting
1. Why are you having the meeting? What is the purpose and aim of it?
2. Which change do you want to initiate in this meeting?
If you can’t answer the first question, you should cancel the meeting immediately and spare everyone the misery of attending. If you are in doubt of the intention of a party, a classic one is “to have fun and meet people”, simple and effective.
1. What concrete outcomes do you want to get out of the meeting?
- What decisions need to be made?
- What is the emotional state of the participants when it’s over?
- What knowledge have the participants gained at the end of the meeting?
As an example: the desired outcome of this article is that you’ll know what I DO ARRT is and that you’ll become capable of using it and become the rock star of hosting meetings!
1. What is the overall plan for the group during the meeting?
- What activities will the group go through and how will they reach the desired outcome?
- What will the group do during the meeting and in which order?
- What will happen, step by step?
So, if we’re creating an agenda for a fancy ass dinner party, the first thing on the agenda would be pre-drinks (I recommend Amaretto Sour, mainly because it’s my favourite drink and not everybody likes it = more for me), then you would move on to the appetizer, then main course and then the dessert. Then you just have to be creative to get people to leave before they trash the place. Personally, I always play “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston when I’m finishing a DJ gig, everybody knows nothing can top that.
1. What roles need to be in place for the meeting to be successful?
- Who is facilitating or hosting? Who is taking notes/harvesting/taking care of documentation?
- Who’s bringing cake?
- What part of the group is participating?
- Who is only there for providing information?
Nobody likes a party where all of the guests take turns on the Spotify playlist (if you do, please leave this article immediately). Make it clear that you are in control of the playlist and everyone is aware of that. During a meeting it’s great to know that John from the public affairs department is responsible for taking notes during the meetings, then the rest of the participants can be fully engaged and trust that the results and discussions are being harvested.
1. What are the rules that are in place? What are the do’s and don’ts of the meeting?
2. Are there any guidelines that you want to put into place, in order to make the meeting successful?
- Do you need to clarify the use of laptops or mobile phones?
- Any other practicalities?
- Flush the toilet after use?
- Start from the outside and work yourself in (when picking cutlery)?
It has sadly become a necessity to tell people to leave their phone alone for two minutes while they are being handed important information. But do it, please! For the benefit of everyone else, stop undesirable behaviour from the start of the meeting! Talking about rules seems a bit stiff, but they set the frames of the meeting and allow for more productivity.
1. How long will the meeting take?
2. Are there any breaks and how long are they?
3. When should the guest leave?
4. How much time does each part of the agenda take?
Remember, nothing is more annoying than spending half an hour talking about what to get for breakfast when you should be eating dinner, so stick to the agenda and don’t be afraid of keeping to the time schedule!
Step B – Prepare the participants
Share the I DO ARRT, or at least part of it, on beforehand. The intention and desired outcome are the most important elements of the I DO ARRT, as well as the time plan for the meeting (it’s good to know when it starts). Sharing it makes the participants aware of what is expected of them before entering the meeting. Don’t forget, no one wants to sign up for Britney, Beyoncé, and Rihanna when the plan is to play death metal.
Step C – At the meeting
Start the meeting with an introduction of the I DO ARRT. Go over it step by step and invite people in. Ask them how they like it or if they would like to suggest changes or add-ons. By doing this, you bring people on board and make them feel ownership of the meeting. Be aware that you only invite people in on things that they are allowed to change and that you want their suggestions for (in other words: if you don’t want them to affect the playlist, don’t ask them what songs to play).
And that’s how you make an I DO ARRT for a meeting, or a party. Remember it’s always good to review your work and go over the I DO ARRT and ask yourself what worked, what didn’t work, and what you might do differently next time.