In today’s always-on, continuously transforming business world, executives are inundated with meetings, which are becoming increasingly virtual. From strategy sessions, board meetings, performance reviews, project updates, fiscal planning, investor meetings, and crisis management, senior leaders are often running from one meeting to the next, leaving little time for purposeful, deep connections with the entire C-team that makes lasting impact.
When it comes to carving out dedicated time for in-person executive retreats, every moment must be engaging, efficient and impactful. Three critical, yet simple, elements are often overlooked: how we start, facilitate and end our meetings. Successful meeting structure provides structure, context, and closure, driving teams to action. Specifically, starting and ending a meeting with impact bookends your in-person time together by setting the tone and closing the loop, respectively. The art of managing these two segments can greatly enhance the overall experience and productivity of your in-persons. Here are a few tips for delivering an engaging experience with actionable impact.
Starting Your Meeting
- Set the Stage: Before diving into the agenda, take a moment to set the stage. Clearly articulate the purpose of the meeting, the expected outcomes, and the role of each participant. This not only orients everyone but also fosters a sense of shared responsibility and engagement.
- Connect Personally: Begin with a brief check-in. A simple question such as “How’s everyone feeling today?” can break the ice, foster a sense of community, and give you a sense of the team’s mood. In an executive retreat, it’s particularly important to create a supportive and trusting atmosphere, as strategic and sometimes difficult discussions will occur.
- Encourage Participation: To ensure everyone feels heard and valued, encourage active participation from the beginning. Ask for input or opinions on the meeting agenda or a specific topic of discussion. This sets a tone of inclusivity and can lead to more dynamic, productive and honest discussions.
- Be Mindful of Time: Start on time, even if everyone isn’t present. This shows respect for those who have arrived on time and discourages tardiness in future meetings.
Facilitating the Meeting
- Hire a Professional Facilitator: A skilled facilitator can bring immense value to your meetings. They can guide discussions effectively, encourage participation, manage conflicts, and ensure that objectives are met. They bring an outside perspective that can help break down internal barriers and move the group toward effective decision-making and consensus.
- Keep it Focused: Stick to the agenda and create a “parking lot” list of off-topic items to avoid digressing into unrelated topics. Your facilitator is trained to help keep everyone engaged and focused, steering the conversation back on track when things may veer off course.
- Maintain Engagement: Regularly invite comments, questions, or reflections. If someone hasn’t contributed, strategically draw them into the conversation by asking questions relevant to their position or area of expertise.
- Manage Conflict Constructively: Disagreements are common in meetings, especially with high-stakes topics. Encourage open dialogue but ensure that any conflict stays constructive and respectful.
Ending Your Meeting
- Summarize and Action Items: Before concluding, summarize the key points discussed and assign action items with clear owners and deadlines. This ensures everyone leaves the meeting with a shared understanding of what was discussed and what needs to happen next.
- Request Feedback: Encourage participants to share their thoughts about the meeting – what went well and what could be improved. This not only promotes a culture of continuous improvement but also ensures that future meetings are even more effective.
- Close on a Positive Note: End the meeting with a positive note – it could be an accomplishment, a compliment for the team, or an inspiring takeaway. This helps everyone leave the meeting feeling energized and motivated.
- Follow-up: Send a follow-up email summarizing the meeting, highlighting the decisions made, and reinforcing action items. This serves as a written record and a gentle nudge to action.
Managing effective executive meetings is a strategic, collaborative process that requires planning, professional facilitation and timely follow-up. Engaging the entire C-team at every step of the meeting process is crucial in building inclusivity and trust for your time together. These quick tips are a starting place to help set you on the path toward greater productivity, engagement, and satisfaction with your team. The goal of your meeting isn’t just to convene – it’s to create space where creativity thrives, decisions are made, and relationships are built.
Planning an executive retreat? Creation Companies can help! We offer the space, place and purpose to drive dynamic and meaningful retreats for your team. Learn more about our destinations, facilitation and leadership learning framework.