How to Keep Meeting Focus

May 18, 2018

When business people hear “Let’s schedule a meeting,” they react the same as they would when they hear “Let’s schedule a root canal.”


Meetings have long been—and continue to be—the Bermuda Triangle of business. In 2004, Patrick Lencioni offered his advice to make meetings more productive in his bestselling book, Death by Meeting. This week, conflict-resolution mediator Priya Parker will publish her advice in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. How to have an effective meeting or conference call has long been discussed. 


This article is discussing solutions to stay focused. Keeping focus is critical to a successful meeting. Below are questions that each leader, as well as each attendee, must be able to answer before, during and after a meeting to stay on purpose.


1. What is the point?

Define the goal or goals of meeting in advance and state them prior to meeting and at start.


Practice the second of Stephen R. Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Begin with end in mind.


Think about a game of darts. When you start to play darts, you usually know the rules and the end goal. Without that knowledge you are just aimlessly throwing darts at a wall. Was it productive? Maybe. You may have had fun and socialized. Without goals their is no focus. 


2. How long will it take?

Set the length of the meeting and length each attendee will have for topics during meeting in advance and again at start. Countdown occasionally as segment or meeting nears end. Conclude promptly at the announced time. If all agenda items are not addressed, roll them forward to another meeting. 


3. Where are we going?

Establish a road map or agenda of topics to be covered. Distribute the agenda in hard and digital copies days in advance and earlier if attendees need to prepare for presentation. If meeting together, have a printed copy of agenda in room at each seat. Writing topics on a whiteboard or projecting it on a monitor may also be a good idea. Along the way, verbally state progression. 


4. What am I doing here?

This should not be an assumption. Every participant should understand his or her role in the meeting and how they are expected to participate. Even if an attendee is not participating, they should be given reason(s) they are there.


5. How are we doing?

Pause during meetings to give each attendee an opportunity to react. Invite challenges and different points of view, get them out into the open, rather than sweep them under the carpet. These are opportunities to grow. The points may not get resolved, but, attendees need to know they are heard, their input is important and everything is open for discussion.


Additionally, it helps to know how you have done if a history of the meeting is taken. Take notes. Some conference calling services offer free call recording service. Take advantage of them. As an experiment, try recounting the details of a discussion and then listen to a recording of the meeting. Get in the habit of distributing meeting recordings or notes for everyone to be able to review later.


Now, get busy with all those root canals. I mean meetings.


Weissman, Jerry. (2018). "5 Questions To Make Meetings Productive". Retrieved from









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