Want bigger impact? Plan a smaller strategy meeting
“Bigger is better.” That’s the old saying, isn’t it? Regarding accomplishing organizational tasks, some believe more people equals more ideas and more potential for success. But studies have shown the opposite to be true - that small teams and smaller meetings are more effective than large ones when tasked with a project.
In fact, the power of small meetings has been well-documented. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that companies who reduce the number of people in their meetings see a significant increase in productivity.
It makes sense when you think about it – with fewer people in the room, there are fewer distractions and more opportunities for everyone to contribute. There are rarely silent voices when participants feel they have a meaningful opportunity to contribute.
While it's often necessary to bring teams and executives together to agree on goals and provide status updates, it's clear meetings are the one element where quality displaces quantity in terms of importance. Meeting for the sake of holding a meeting is a waste of everyone's time and team members resent it.
How many meetings have you been part of where the agenda was redundant or, at the extreme, totally irrelevant to what you do? Employees often joke and complain about how soul-sucking and painful such meetings are overall. Meetings that should have been an email are particularly bothersome. These ineffective meetings have detrimental consequences for teams and organizations.
Here are some tips on how we can winnow the invite list for truly productive meeting outcomes.
Small Meetings, Big Benefits
While larger meetings can be helpful for mass information sharing, smaller meetings are more effective for brainstorming and solution finding. That’s because smaller gatherings are more intimate, allowing for more back-and-forth discussion and collaboration.
In a small meeting, everyone has a chance to voice their opinion and offer their unique perspective. This is especially important for introverts, who often feel overshadowed and stay quiet in larger groups. When allowed to speak up in a smaller setting, introverts can offer insights that might otherwise be lost. Likewise, participants who may feel less inclined to speak up in a crowd find the relationships and comfort levels developed in a small group to be the perfect environment for sharing what they would most like to contribute.
Yet another benefit of small meetings is that they force people to be more prepared. With fewer people in the room, there's less margin for error, and the unprepared participant will feel uncomfortable. As a result, attendees are more likely to come to the table with concrete ideas and solutions - or at least a well-thought-out set of ideas to share.
If you have a lot to accomplish, get the key people together in a downsized environment. When you get too many opinions in a room, it's hard to nail down an action plan going forward. With a small meeting, there's an intentional purpose and fewer people to navigate in getting there.
You don't want there to be too much conversation and not a lot of intention.
Who Should be Included in a Small Meeting?
Deciding who not to include in a meeting can be challenging, which is why too many managers default to including everyone. And to make everyone feel included, they unknowingly diminish the quality of the meeting. Contrast this with a meeting of 8 - 40 carefully considered participants. The group members feel a social responsibility to one another, and together, they contribute to the shared goal.
When you're putting together a small meeting, it's important to consider who will be most impacted by the decisions being made. These are the people who need to be in the room. You really want to make sure these folks are the ones able to make movements on initiatives and can help make change happen.
To get started, ask yourself these questions:
- Who will be directly affected by the decisions made in this meeting?
- Who has the expertise or knowledge to contribute to this discussion?
- Who can help move the needle on this issue?
Chances are, the people you need in the room are not the same people you'd invite to a large meeting. And that's OK. The goal is to create an intimate environment where everyone can actively participate in the discussion. And don’t overlook the less-obvious choices either. Sometimes, those with the most to contribute aren’t asked to do so and their voices are never heard.
Small meetings are easier to facilitate and coordinate. They foster an environment that creates a shared sense of unity, which opens the floor to more meaningful and candid discussion.
And on that note, consider gathering your stakeholders in an off-site venue, even if you have a meeting room on your business premises. Holding smaller meetings externally from time to time minimizes distractions leading to more creative and effective meetings.
How to Keep Your Meetings a Manageable Size
The people you invite are just as important in a meeting as what you need to get done. So, who should you invite to your small meetings? Generally, you want your sessions to include:
- One or two subject matter experts on the topics under discussion
- The key decision-makers for the issues involved
- A success owner – the person who’ll follow through on the ideas and coordinate efforts towards completing the action items
- People who have a stake in the decisions to be made and are open to sharing feedback and ideas
- Those who need to know about the information to do their jobs
Ultimately, you'll want to unite people with diverse ideas or opinions. Although it might be easier, a room full of people who all agree isn’t always the most impactful. Primarily, they should all have experience and deep knowledge of the topics on the meeting agenda. Consensus may come later. So, ask yourself: Who must be present for this discussion to yield results?
Hosting a smaller meeting isn’t to say you can’t add more people if you think they will add value to the discussion or gain value by being there. The point of holding smaller meetings isn't to have a few people in the room; it's to have the right people in the room. It's about freeing up distractions and getting to the heart of the matter.
Want better results? Plan a better meeting. Hold your executive meetings at the Spruce Point Inn and discover how the right location, with the right amenities, can lead to better decisions. We'll work with you to ensure your meeting is a success.
Maine's motto is "The way life should be", and if I'm being honest, you'll leave Spruce Point thinking, "The way meetings should be.”
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