Posted date: 22/09/2020

I have run a lot of meetings in my day (and I have also attended a lot of meetings).  Over the years, I learned a few things that help make for an informative and interesting staff meeting (as well as some things that make for uninformative and dull meetings).  This edition of “Ten Things” will set out some ideas to help you run a great staff meeting (and these ideas will work for small group meetings as well):

2. Meeting logistics.  Next, decide how often and when to have your meeting.  I think once a month is best (but, it depends on your department/company culture somewhat as well).  Use a fixed point, e.g., the “second Thursday” of every month, so everyone knows the general rhythm of the meeting over the course of the year.  When you set your date, be thoughtful about other meetings/activities that occur regularly that could conflict with yours.  For example, a company-wide “town hall,” regular CLE sessions, business unit meetings that your attorneys may attend, etc.  Similarly, you don’t want your staff meeting to be on the same day as another long mandatory meeting as then you basically cede most of the day to meetings vs. getting stuff done.  Mondays and Fridays are typically not great days to have a staff meeting given the large number of conflicts that arise on those days.  Pick a meeting room that is large enough to comfortably hold everyone and that has a good speakerphone and projector/screen.  Be sure to reserve the room well in advance (for the full year) and have a standing calendar invite prepared and sent to everyone in the department with the room, time, links, and other meeting details.  Use the same room every time if possible.  Select a time for the meeting that makes sense for your department.  We had a number of internationally-based colleagues so we held the meeting in the morning (Central Time) which is mid-afternoon in Europe.  Unfortunately, it was pretty late for our friends in Asia but that is something that cannot be helped.  Do the best you can with the scheduling and shoot for what’s best for most people.  Finally, figure out how long you want the meeting to be.  An hour is ideal.  Ninety minutes is okay.  Anything over 90 minutes is not a good idea.  We set ours for 90 and then I tried like mad to keep it to an hour.  That way I have some flexibility if it ran long, but, usually, I was able to give people back some time (which is always appreciated!).

3.  Have an agenda. Never free-lance your staff meeting.  Go in with a set written agenda that follows the same basic contours every time.  This will keep your meeting focused, purposeful and on schedule.  At the end of this post, I set out the agenda (annotated) I typically used.

5.  Use technology. The key to an engaging meeting is having an interesting presentation.  If your meeting only consists of you reading off of a script to people sitting in the room, you have already lost.  As technology developed, I incorporated it into our staff meetings.  Some things worked, some things did not – but we had fun trying.


    7.  Test everything before the meeting Nothing kills your meeting faster than a technical glitch.  I tried to set aside 30 minutes before the meeting started to get everything set up, test the phone, test the projector, test the WebEx connection and video feed, get the room lighting and temperature to the right levels, etc.  When you are booking your room, be sure to book the extra time for getting the room set up correctly before the meeting starts (otherwise you are standing in the hallway while someone else’s meeting winds down and then rushing to get your meeting up and running).  Additionally, I had a back-up of the PPT on a flash drive in case my laptop crashed or locked up and my admin had her laptop ready to go if we needed to switch over because something happened to mine.  You will not be able to eliminate all glitches every time (as I learned repeatedly), but you will generally have a smooth and seamless/professional meeting if you spend some time upfront getting the room and the technology ready.


    10. Make the meeting important.  This is almost as important as creating an interesting presentation.  You need to be sure that your staff meeting is important to you and your team.  I used to say this is one time every month when we’d all come together as a team to discuss things and learn from each other.  For that reason alone it was an important meeting.  Make sure as the leader you stick to the schedule (and if you absolutely have to miss a meeting that you reschedule it vs. canceling it).  Likewise, your team needs to understand that the meeting is not something they can blow off.  Conflicts will arise but make sure your team understands that the meeting is important and attendance is not optional and can be missed only for good cause.  They should not intentionally schedule other meetings or phone calls during the department meeting, and they should try to get meetings they are invited to set to a different time if they conflict with the department meeting and if possible.   Good meetings are meetings where people feel they need to be there because it’s important (vs. just going through the motions and marking time).  If you treat the meeting as important, it will rub off on your team.

    Meetings are a fact of life in the corporate world. There is no better way to communicate within your department and to gauge in real-time the pulse and mood of your team.  No matter how well run and informative your meetings are, people will gripe about having to attend.  But, they will gripe louder if they feel left out of knowing what’s going on in the company or the department or if they do not have a regular opportunity to engage with other members of the department.  Your job is to take the time and make the effort to create a meeting that is useful, informative, and interesting.  The above is just a start, but if you give it the time it deserves you will be able to create the right kind of staff meeting for your team.

    Sterling Miller


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