How can you run a great meeting that is engaging for participants, productive, and a great investment of everyone’s time?

I still have a painful memory of the first time I organized an off-site meeting with all the employees in my small but growing company. I was so excited to share with them our performance metrics, the exciting ideas I had, and how we would conquer the world. By one o’clock in the afternoon everyone was zoning out and one person was literally asleep. How could they not care? How could they not be as fascinated and engaged as I was?

Dick and Emily Axelrod, in their new book Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done, share a system for running great meetings. They summarize it with a metaphor of a canoe with six parts:

  1. Welcome
  2. Connect
  3. Discover
  4. Elicit
  5. Decide
  6. Attend

The Axelrods explain the importance of each step and offer several practical activities that can be implemented in almost any situation. For example, in the first step, welcome, they explain how neuroscience shows our first reaction to new situations is to scan for threats and we will be careful with our own behavior. With a proper welcoming sequence, meeting participants can feel more secure, more relaxed and primed for participation.

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