I recently took part in a couple of days of meetings where we were writing material deliverable to clients. What was notable about the vibe of the meetings themselves, though, was the quality of interpersonal communication and the clarity of the agenda set by the meetings’ organizer. The tone of the interpersonal communication was friendly, warm, supportive and we got a great deal done. This wasn’t surprising in itself. My colleagues and I are friends and there’s lots of rapport.
But this is where the quality of the “meeting agenda” comes in. The organizer had a very informal tone and much of the meetings’ structure was spontaneous. There was no real written agenda. But he kept checking in with us verbally, keeping us on time-track, establishing consensus and getting buy-in on crucial and important things like “are we happy with this draft language?” as well as less crucial but equally important things like when we’d get lunch and the room’s temperature. It all needs to be said–out loud.
Far from being rudderless, the meetings had a clear and present sense of structure and care, with an evolving but explicit agenda and mutual involvement. The open agenda, as repeatedly articulated and put on the table by the organizer, thus also allowed us each to take new risks in how we gave feedback to each other. The verbal agenda professionalized an informal process so that it was even more productive than it otherwise would have been.
In effective meetings, the agenda can evolve and can be as simple as an ongoing but affirmative verbal check-in by the organizer!