Maybe it’s just me, but I hate the unsatisfactory feeling of an unproductive meeting. And while I understand that as in-house counsel, with the sheer number of meetings we join, that it is unlikely that all of our meetings can be productive or efficient, I do believe that we can do our part to ensure progress.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you are the meeting organizer.
Set The Table
As people join the call or meeting, it helps to display the agenda and proposed time allotment for discussion of each topic. It is also helpful to provide a high-level background and make sure everyone is on the same page and to “refresh” everyone on the purpose of the meeting and what you hope to accomplish. This may be a bit extra, but for meetings where people may not know each other or their roles, it may help to do a brief introduction of all the stakeholders on the call, at least by role — which will remind everyone why they were invited to the call. If it’s a privileged or confidential call, as in-house counsel, this is the time to make it clear, and refresh everyone what they can or cannot share, as needed.
Stick To The Agenda
Super obvious, and easier said than done, but key to productivity. Besides displaying the agenda, which can help focus everyone, artful facilitation is crucial. The balance between ensuring that everyone has a voice and an opportunity to weigh in but also staying on topic and within time is tough. Everyone has a different style on how to interrupt and redirect, but some helpful phrases to keep the conversation on track:
- What I heard so far is X, Y, Z — anything different to add?
- Are we solved on this topic?
- That’s important and thank you for bringing it up; I’ll add it to the parking lot for a future conversation but getting back to our why.
Review Next Steps
If possible, reserve time to sum up and review next steps — especially if stakeholders have homework. It’s important to make sure everyone knows what they have to do and when it’s due. I am a big fan of sending out minutes, but if that’s too much, at least send out the follow-up items to the entire group to help add some accountability and, yup — you guessed it! Go ahead and schedule the next meeting with an agenda of ensuring all the homework was done.
Meyling “Mey” Ly Ortiz is in-house at Toyota Motor North America. Her passions include mentoring, championing belonging, and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a “fun” mom to a toddler and preschooler and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/). And you knew this was coming: her opinions are hers alone.