The 5 P's of productive meetings

Prepare, Pay attention, ask Permission, invite Participation, and Pause

It's not uncommon to leave a meeting questioning its value and pondering all of the productive things you could have done with that time instead.

But that shouldn't be the case—meetings should be engaging enough to demand your full attention. Two experts recently shared five suggestions for bringing life back to your meetings.

1. Prepare

Conducting a meeting requires you to be present, writes corporate trainer Paul Axtell in the Harvard Business Review. He recommends taking time in advance to lay out the agenda.

Writing for CNBC, career and business coach Carol Steward adds that taking the time to identify your own views about the agenda will allow you to put your opinions on the table when the time comes.

How many people should you invite to your meeting? That depends on what you hope to accomplish

2. Pause.

Axtell argues taking a moment to pause at key points during each meeting can help set the tone that you want everyone to be fully engaged. For example, he suggests opening the meeting by asking if anyone has something to say before you dive in—and then waiting for a moment or two so attendees can reflect on their responses.

Pauses like this will encourage your group to speak up throughout the entire meeting without fearing that they'll slow you down.

Start your meeting with a pause, but end your meeting by doing this

3. Ask Permission

Don't just take the helm without asking your group for permission, says Axtell. Once your group gives you the go-ahead, you can then ask that they put away their devices or be respectful. Your group's permission gives you the authority to make these requests.

4. Pay attention

According to Axtell, people associate attention with caring. When you pay attention to each speaker and really make the effort to listen and ask follow up questions, you demonstrate empathy.

The first step is to put away your phone and computer—you can't really listen to someone if you don't.

5. Invite Participation

Meetings should invite everyone to participate, says Axtell. To make sure all attendees have a chance to speak, Axtell suggests setting 20% fewer items on your agenda, and allowing 20% more time for each of the agenda items. 

Oh, and it's ok to be funny in your meeting—just make sure you use humor the right way

When it comes to participation, though, there's one "p" you should avoid—and that's pushing. You don't want to make it seem like you're forcing people to talk. Axtell suggests framing participation as an invitation instead. 

The right questions to ask at your next conference

While you prepare, Axtell also suggests thinking strategically about which member of your group might hold the biggest stake in each agenda item—or perhaps have a different view than the rest of the group. You can then extend an invitation to these specific group members as each agenda item pops up (Axtell, Harvard Business Review, 4/5; Stewart, CNBC, 5/5). 

Bonus tip: Run your meetings while walking


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