By Frank Tommaso, an EO Southeast Virginia member, and founder and chief innovation officer of Blu Skyy Realty
According to the American Management Association and meeting experts, companies call too many meetings and most are a waste of time. Mainly, they cite the lack of planning and effective administration for why most meetings are so bad and unproductive.
What does it take to run an effective and meaningful meeting where you invite your entire staff? The one simple ingredient is: preparation. I spend no less than 2 hours planning and practicing for each “all company” meeting at Blu Skyy Realty. At the end of the meeting, I want each person, no matter their role in my company, to feel uplifted, connected, and ready to be an active participant in our mission.
At every meeting, my goal is to reinforce our company culture through our mission and the Blu Skyy Way, which are our core values. Sure, we do have updates and house keeping items on our agenda, but those are the transactional part of our meetings and happen in the middle. The most valuable portions of our meetings are at the beginning and at the end. To ensure that my meetings are meaningful and powerful—and remain relevant and well received, I measure my agenda against this check list.
- Am I practicing gratitude?
- Do I have a positive and inspirational message?
- Am I keeping the meeting focused?
We open each meeting with an invocation. Our VP, Talent Development gives a short, thoughtful non-denominational speech that reflects that we are grateful for the opportunity to work for a company that cares about us and our customers and wants all of us to do good things for other people. This sets the tone for the meeting. We then get a chance to know each other more with a short opening exercise. Some times each person gets a minute to tell a story on a particular topic or it could be as simple as a “one word open” that encapsulates how they feel at that moment. We always learn about our co-workers at a deeper level with this exercise and it creates a stronger camaraderie within our team.
The next portion of the meeting is my favorite part. It is my time to share my perspective on growing the company and having each person in the room as a part of our growth. Many times I will tell an inspirational story of change or triumph. The story always has one main point and lesson, and it is something that I want each person in the room to take with them into the day, the week, the month and put it into practice. After our housekeeping notes, I always circle back to the main point of that meeting’s story and remind our team what an excellent job they are doing for themselves, for their co-workers, and for our customers.
The biggest challenge in any meeting is trying to cram in too much and loosing your audience. I work hard to be focused in my meetings and to give a performance. I walk the room, I use props, and I always look everyone in the eye. I can’t waste the time or money boring my staff. They trust that the time will be well spent and look forward to our monthly meetings and I have to deliver.
Because I have everyone in one room, I like to provide one more opportunity for creating strong bonds in my office. I feel one of the best ways to connect with my team and have them connect with each other is to share a meal together. I treat my entire staff to lunch at our monthly meeting. It is a time for us to get to know each other on a different level and it is where we learn about each other as people, not simply co-workers.
Smaller, departmental meetings will always be necessary for a company to move projects forward. But when you want to move your entire company forward, consider a monthly meeting with a motivational message. By being a little more transparent with your team, you might get a little more loyalty in return.
Frank Tommaso is the founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Blu Skyy Realty, which has recently been named to the Best Places to Work in Virginia list. He is a board member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization-Southeastern Chapter and can be reached through www.BluSkyyRealty.com.