Remember when you were little and playing a game with the neighbour kids, then they change the rules and say “oh yeah, I forgot to tell about…” or if you’re learning a new game with some friends and they say “I’ll start with the basic rules so we can get the game going, and I’ll fill you in as we go on the details.”

I get frustrated in a situation when I can’t contribute my best because the parameters aren’t clear, and when it comes to our creative meetings, our team has found some really effective ways to maximize our productivity and effectiveness in a short amount of time – the reason: we’ve all agree to play by the rules.

These rules are not meant to limit participation (like saying you can’t touch the soccer ball with your hands) but are rather to give us a clear playing field so we can get to (in my opinion) the fun part of brainstorming and creating an execution strategy.

This list is not the 9 ways to have a perfect meeting, or 9 ways your team has to do it.  Each team is different, has different players and is playing a different game (if I may continue that analogy).  Take these ideas and figure out what they look like for your team, how they get applied and what your team needs to add to be most effective.

You may be asking “Adam, what does this have to do with marketing?” My answer would be that effective meetings will help you achieve results. Not sure what I mean? Try these on with your team…

1. Invite only the relevant players

If you’re playing football, and it’s the offensive line on the field, don’t invite the defence to the party. If your conversation requires one person, have a one-on-one meeting.

If your conversation requires everyone on your team except one person, honor that person’s time and let them know why you’re not bringing them in if necessary but don’t bring them in to sit in an irrelevant meeting. If you have a set meeting where everyone on your team comes together, then only discuss issues relevant to everyone and save the others for later.


2. Have an Agenda

Be clear about what you want to discuss and who needs to be in the discussion about those topics.  Be clear about the order. Decide that information before you call the meeting.  Sometimes you may want to share that agenda before the meeting, and sometimes it’s relevant to get everyones initial reactions at the same time.  Whether you share it ahead or not, have an agenda.


3. Start on Time and End on Time

I find it odd that we used to talk about when the meeting would start, but not have a clear plan about when the meeting would end.  Based on inviting the right people and having an agenda, take a guess at how long the meeting will be and set an end time… this way people can schedule their next appointment or goals and tasks for the day after that meeting.

When that time arrives, END ON TIME!  If there is more discussion to be had, book a follow up meeting with some or all of the relevant people.


4. Everybody contributes

If you’ve hand-picked who will be in the meeting, they’re here for a reason. Everybody contributes.  We have some people on our team who are louder and some quieter. Some who process out loud and some who sit and think.  Some people who want their opinion to be considered, and others who are happy to find a way to support whatever decision is made.  Regardless of those factors, everybody contributes.  After discussion and when a decision has to be made, go around the table and ask everyone what they’re suggestion is.

If you have a team member who likes to process, ask them last, once they’ve heard everyone else’s input.  “Whatever the team decides” is not contributing, because if that’s your answer, you didn’t need to be in the decision meeting.

You could help that person by asking “If the decision was yours, what would you choose?” or if they say “I pretty much agree with everyone” then ask “How do you see yourself participating in implementing.” or “What would it look like if we made a different decision?”  Learn to hear what’s not being said and draw the input out of that person.  They have a unique perspective that is valuable to the team.


5. Leave with an action plan

Your meeting has a purpose. It is probably meant to change something or cause an action.  Write down what your action is, who is responsible for completing what portions and by when they will have it completed.  Have everyone articulate back to you what their action is so that you’re clear.


6. Review the last meeting’s action plan

There’s no point in making an action plan in this meeting if we’re not going to be sure those actions got completed.  This isn’t an opportunity to come down on someone who hasn’t completed their task, but an opportunity to celebrate the completed tasks, help overcome hurdles that could have prevented previous tasks and be clear on what now needs to be achieved to move forward.


7. Nobody leaves confused

If you’re not sure of what the play is, don’t leave the huddle.  This is each team member’s opportunity to clarify the action, the responsibility and the “by when”.  If anyone is unsure on the motive, the big picture, the small details, the timeline, the key players or what’s expected of them, this is the time to ask.

Being sure doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page… I could be 100% sure I heard something that you didn’t say, and you could be 100% sure I heard what you said.  Being sure isn’t being clear.

Ask you team to summarize their understanding of the action plan and listen for hints that someone isn’t entirely clear.


8. What happens in the room stays in the room

Sometimes conversations go beyond the topic and sometimes they become emotional.  We’ve agreed that we won’t hold someone’s actions or opinions for ammunition at a future time and we won’t undermine the public conversation with private conversations later.  This trust allows us to be honest, admit our flaws, come up with genuine raw ideas and create an opportunity to be ourselves.


9. Get clear with everyone before the meeting

If someone said or did something in the meeting, at the water cooler or in an email or text message that didn’t sit right with you, ask them to clarify, get on the same page with them and come to the meeting clear.  The last thing we need in our discussion about a website overhaul is to have a couple of people on about last Friday’s “Photocopier incident” or that they needed an elastic and someone had taken the last one in the drawer, or worse yet is having 2 people silently fuming toward each other and not able to draw them in to contribute to the conversation.  You don’t have to go look for problems and then create resolves, but if there’s an unmet expectation of someone else on the team, we get that cleared up with them privately so we can contribute our best to the group.


I would love to hear what else you have setup for your meeting, how you live by or reiterate your meeting rules, or by when you’ll choose to explore and implement meeting rules for your team!  Leave a comment below, or track me down on twitter @Adam_McLaughlin