I’ve always been fascinated by groups of people getting together, whether socially, professionally or by accident.  Whenever I travel, I find myself looking around at the group of strangers sitting in the plane or train and wonder what would happen if that group were given a problem to solve or an idea to come up with. To me, any group of people in the same place offers a world of possibilities.

And yet, in the corporate world, meetings are more often a drain than a source of inspiration.  Too often they are done to tick the box that the necessary people have been updated or included, and they often lack any structure or discipline. 

Any group of people in the same place offers a world of possibilities.

In her incredible book ‘The Art of Gathering’ (which I’d recommend to absolutely everyone), Priya Parker talks about the importance of setting a clear purpose for any meeting, workshop or event. I couldn’t agree more; no matter how long or large a gathering is, to be effective it must be purposeful.

Too often, teams feel like they’re drowning in meetings, no matter the industry. This was certainly the case in an agency I worked at, so we tackled the problem head on, as I like to do. It very quickly became clear that the meetings were too long and not productive enough because they didn’t have clear goals. It may sound obvious, but ask yourself how many times you receive an invite to an hour-long meeting (purely because that’s the default on many calendars) for a ‘Catch-up’ or ‘Update’. No agenda, no real sense of what is needed out of the meeting.  To combat the issue we were facing, we instigated a simple rule of setting out 3 clear objectives in the invite itself, recapping them at the start of the meeting and ensuring they’ve been resolved at the end of the meeting. They rapidly became far more productive, therefore we needed fewer, and everyone had more time to work.

Set a clear purpose for your meetings

You can try it for yourself at work, or even in your personal life.  For the next 3 gatherings you’re in charge of, set out a clear overall purpose for each one and notice the difference it makes. 

At the wellness-infused communication and strategy workshops my company runs, we work with our clients to align to a strong purpose for the session, within which there may be smaller objectives.  We always try to elevate the purpose as far as possible, as well as making it specific. So for example instead of simply stating ‘Develop the 2020 marketing plan’, it might instead be ‘Give the team the tools and confidence to create and execute an overarching platform and five creative tactics for the 2020 marketing plan’. Although it may sound clunky, it creates a much clearer way to structure the workshop and a much better filter for what should and should not be included. 

I love bringing people together, but doing it ineffectively is a huge waste of time, money and goodwill.  That’s why I urge you to go for quality over quantity, so you can start to make your gatherings as effective as possible.