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Staff summits: How to make the most out of the internal meetingHeather

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Staff summits: How to make the most out of the internal meetingWe’ve all been there before: Sitting through the three-hour staff meeting (sometimes lecture or fight-fest!), only to leave with no real actionable items or measurable progress made. These perceptions of internal meetings can often leave us expecting less-than-stellar get-togethers in all future instances.However, contrary to popular belief, internal staff meetings can be both exciting and informative. Turn the stereotype on its head by providing a valuable experience for all team members – one that will leave them motivated, inspired and ready to tackle organizational goals!Prep for success
Every good meeting starts with detailed planning. Try a few of these prep tips to ensure your staff meeting runs smoothly and efficiently:

  • Pair the usual meeting agenda with goals of what is to be accomplished during the meeting. Send this out to each staff member prior to the gathering, and invite their input and additions to action items or goals. If there are any specific items for individual teammates to prepare, be sure to note that on the agenda as well.
  • Consider using an online project management tool to keep track of all agenda items and employee to-dos and allow for easier collaboration and staff input. Tools like Google Docs allow multiple contributors to the same document, while more advanced programs like QuickBase, Basecamp or Clarizen offer other features like file-sharing, to-do lists and task assignment. Upload all prep documents, charts, and supporting materials here, so staff can review them in time before the meeting – this will avoid the all-too-common “group read-in” that many meetings fall victim to.
  • When planning the meeting’s time and length, consider a few things: Time of day (When is your staff most energetic and on-point?), meals/refreshments (if holding around the noon hour, lunch should be provided), and the shorter the better (keep it under an hour, if possible). Discussing key information will be easiest if coworkers are attentive and willing to participate, so try to avoid general meetings during hectic weeks or project crunch time.

Continue the smooth sailing
From start to finish, ensure that energy and involvement are kept high:

  • After an initial welcome and quick overview of the agenda, kick off the meeting on a positive note. Go around the table and have each coworker share their biggest success or achievement since the group last met. This will boost entire organizational morale while also giving each team member an equal chance to be in the spotlight.
  • One of the biggest detriments to a staff member’s attention span during a meeting can be the “tech glaze” – when he or she maintains non-stop eye contact with a laptop or PDA. Encourage staff to leave these items at their desk by handing out Laptop Skinware or Monitor Memo Dry-erase Boards imprinted with the phrase: “I’m allergic to meetings – Leave me behind!” Then, assign one individual to take down minutes during the meeting to ensure greater participation and less distraction from an incoming e-mail or IM.
  • Commit to only discussing items outlined in the agenda. Too many off-track discussions can quickly lead to a no-progress meeting. If conversation begins to stray, reign everyone back in by referring to the agenda and time. Then, immediately put the topic on next meeting’s agenda if the item is worthwhile enough for group discussion.
  • Halfway through the meeting, call for a quick mind break. At this point, pass around a fish bowl (or something like it!) that contains a few dozen folded up pieces of paper. On each piece, type a question for the person who draws it to answer. Keep the questions light and interesting, such as – “Favorite day of the week, and why?” or “Best compliment ever received, and from who?” Although employees can “pass” if they’d like, reward those who do participate with fun, creativity-inspiring prizes like Nutty Putty or ZeeBeez.

Bring it on home
Wrap things up with a meeting recap and actionable steps for the future:

  • The third-to-last item on your agenda should be a recap of major decisions that came from the meeting and progress toward any goals set. Make this review quick and to the point, asking for assistance from the meeting’s secretary if needed.
  • The second-to-last item on the agenda should be action steps. Be sure that each team member is going to leave knowing what he or she is responsible for and what actions need to be taken before the next meeting or another specified deadline.
  • Finally, end the meeting on an inspirational note. Consider planning your final agenda item to be something motivational like watching an interesting, applicable online video or sharing a few quotes from industry thought leaders. Go the extra mile for quarterly or annual meetings by printing an inspiring quote on an Artesian Tote or Deluxe Padfolio and giving them to employees as a thank-you gift for all of their hard work and participation.

Internal staff meetings don’t have to be painful! By encouraging involvement from all team members and keeping energy high, they can prove to be very productive and essential to reaching organizational goals. Add a little pizzazz and fun to the mix and you’ll be set for success!

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