How many meetings have you been in that you didn’t understand why you or someone else was there? Or perhaps you didn’t know why the meeting was happening or what the meeting was expected to deliver? On average, an hour meeting attended by ten people costs the business £500. Roll this out to a couple of meetings a week, and that team is burning through £4,000. For investment we better be getting a good return. Worse still, if that meeting didn’t come to a solid conclusion and setup another meeting, the cost of delay could be high. An easy to adopt meeting facilitation technique that can help to dramatically increase meeting output, increase ROI, and reduce the cost of delay is a POWER start.
A POWER start requires either the facilitator to have a brief pre-meeting with the meeting’s sponsor or the sponsor alone to down and think about the meeting before it happens. In my experience, once one is used to using this technique it will only require half an hour to employ it. POWER is a mnemonic for Purpose, Outcomes and deliverables, Wii-FM, Engage participants, and Roles and responsibilities.
Every meeting should have a purpose, and if you can’t come up with one then don’t have the meeting in the first place. When you’re thinking about purpose ask yourself what and why questions. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What’s at stake if you don’t have the meeting now? Why are you holding the meeting? If you have several whys, then perhaps you need to have multiple meetings so that each one is addressed fully and without distraction. Once you have your why for the meeting, it’s time to move onto the what.
Outcomes and Deliverables
When thinking about the outcomes and deliverables of a meeting it helps to think three categories; Heads, Hearts, and Hands. The best meetings generate a mixture of all of these things.
These are things that involve skills and information sharing. It may be that you’re considering some training, or that you need to distribute information in the form of a status update or a more continual manner such as an information radiator.
Was your why that you need to better engage your staff or create excitement about a new product? Then this is the section for you to concentrate on. Look to come out of the meeting with a plan of how to inspire others.
These are the more tangible deliverables. Perhaps you need a prioritised backlog, or a timeline of events over the next couple of weeks, or maybe just some ownership of actions.
This acronym stands for What’s in it For Me? This is the key questions that any meeting attendee should be able to answer. Every person in a meeting is a potential point of waste, so let’s make sure that everyone who is needed is there and those that aren’t need aren’t there. It may help to initially think of this in terms of a RACI analysis. Once you know who, make sure that you explain how they’re making difference. Perhaps inspire them about the product or excite them about the impact of the outcomes and deliverables upon them and their team.
Now it’s time to think about the meeting itself. I’ve previously written about five stage retrospectives and I think this is a good model for any meeting. I make a couple of changes to the first and last stages though in order to help cut the meeting length down and to perform some other tasks that aren’t relevant to a retrospective.
For the start of the meeting I first do a quick check-in questions to help get everyone present. This could be something such as, “Describe your mood in terms of the weather.” Try to make it a question that can be answered in a sentence or less. I’ll then run over the meeting agenda, ask if anyone has anything else they’d like to cover, and address any disparity if it exists.I then follow the same pattern of gathering data, generating insights, and deciding what to do.
To close a meeting I’ll run through anything thats in the parking lot; check actions including ownership and due dates; ask if everyone thinks we’ve met our purpose, and achieved our desired outcomes and deliverables. Once everyone is happy I’ll ask a check-out question. Much like the check-in brings people present, the check-out helps bring closure to any emotion or conflict, and helps people to move on from the meeting more quickly. For this questions I’ll read the room; if it’s feeling negative then I’ll ask something to help raise the mood such as, “Name one thing that brings you energy and joy.” Otherwise, I’ll ask a questions around people’s confidence or enthusiasm about what we’ve achieved.
Roles and Responsibilities
This last point is asking what the attendees are empowered to do Are you wanting them to make the final decision? Perhaps you them to bring along information so that your gathering data stage can be super quick. Whatever it is you need from or expect of them, be sure to tell them before the meeting.
Advice on Using a POWER Start
Although I review the POW and R at the start of the meeting, I find it beneficial to send out an email to the invitees a couple of days before the meeting so that they have a chance to prepare their pre-requisites and so that they are more likely to attend. Don’t forget to provide the fiddle toys either. It’s better for people to build a giant Lego wall than to pick up their phone and wake up at the end of the meeting oblivious to that happened.