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140. Making Meetings Meaningful with Mamie Kanfer Stewart

Do you have any meetings on your calendar this week that you're pretty sure will be a waste of time? You're not alone. In the last of our series that highlights some of the collaboration skills that we teach in our Learn by Doing Good team building experiences. I've brought on meeting expert, Mamie Kanfer Stewart to share her practical tips for how we can make all types of meetings better. We dig into:

  • The #1 action you need to take to make sure your meetings are engaging and effective

  • How to make sure the right people are at your meetings and how to tactfully decline a meeting invite

  • How to turn your pre-work from hated to helpful

  • How to maximize the value of virtual meetings

  • How to lead meetings in a way that helps to make our workplaces more compassionate and just


About Mamie:

Andrea Feigl headshot
Mamie Kanfer Stewart

Mamie Kanfer Stewart is passionate about helping people thrive at work. She is the host of The Modern Manager podcast, author of Momentum: Creating Effective, Engaging and Enjoyable Meetings and Founder of Meeteor, a training firm focused on productive meetings. As an executive coach, content creator and trainer, Mamie has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and managers to build the habits they need to successfully manage themselves and their teams so everyone can be their best selves and do their best work.


While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by Castmagic for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.

Teri Schmidt [00:00:00]:

Question for you. Take a look at your calendar for this week. Do you have at least 1 meeting on it that you're pretty confident will be a waste of your time? Then today's episode is for you.

In the last of our series that highlights some of the collaboration skills that we teach in our Learn by Doing Good team building experiences, I've brought on meeting expert, Mamie Kanfer Stewart, to share her practical tips for how we can make all types of meetings better. Mamie is passionate about helping people thrive at work. She's the host of the Modern Manager podcast, author of Momentum: Creating Effective, Engaging, and Enjoyable Meetings, and founder of Meeteor, a training firm focused on productive meetings.

We dig into the number one action you need to take to make sure your meetings are engaging and effective? How to make sure the right people are at your meetings, and how to tactfully decline a meeting invite? How to turn your prework from hated to helpful? How to maximize the value of virtual meetings? And most importantly, how to lead meetings in a way that helps to make our workplaces more compassionate and just. So let's get into it.

Teri Schmidt [00:01:15]:

I'm Teri Schmidt, founder of Stronger to Serve Coaching and Team Building, where we believe that leadership is courageously using your talents to make a way for others to courageously use theirs. And this is the Strong Leaders Serve podcast.

Well, hi, Mamie. Welcome to the Strong Leaders Serve Podcast. I'm looking forward to our conversation today, particularly because it's about a topic that probably a lot of people don't necessarily like talking about and don't always like participating in.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:01:59]:

Yes. Meetings is just one of those things that people tend to not enjoy so much, although I love them. So I'm excited to be here and chat with you too, Teri.

Teri Schmidt [00:02:10]:

Yeah. So speaking of your love for meetings, I'd love to start by just hearing about where that passion came from and how you got started focusing on supporting managers and particularly supporting them to have more effective meetings like you wrote about in your book.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:02:30]:

Yeah. Well, a long time ago. I grew up inside of a family business and learned a lot about how teams work together. And shortly after, you know, a little stint there after college, I went to work in the nonprofit sector, and I was shocked that the way that my family business ran itself was not how every organization ran itself. So and it's like, this doesn't make any sense to me. Like, these meetings are really wandering everywhere. Like, the way that they run projects is different than what I anticipated. And I I set out to basically bring some of the practices that I had learned inside my family business out to the world.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:03:11]:

And I could've started down 1 path and kind of went through variations. And when I hit on meetings, which to me wasn't the most obvious It wasn't like the place that I started. Mhmm. But when I started to talk to people about the way they run projects, the way they engage their team, the way they collaborate, Things come coming back to the meeting. And once I just honed in on meetings, it was amazing to me that every person I met, whether it was at a dinner party Or at a bar or at a work event. If I ask them about their meetings, every single person Had a terrible story to tell me about a meeting that they had attended that week or even that day. Wow. I thought, Woah.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:03:54]:

This is a big, big problem. And there is no reason That meetings need to be so terrible. They shouldn't be a time suck. They shouldn't be a place that is doesn't feel good to be part of. It doesn't Feel like it's a productive use of your time. Like, there's really no reason for that because the solutions to make meetings productive and engaging and enjoyable Are so simple that anyone can do that. And I knew that from working in my family's business. Right.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:04:23]:

And so that was it. I I Honed it on meetings and I said, this is a problem that I can solve, and this is a problem that everyone will benefit from.

Teri Schmidt [00:04:31]:

I think everyone's talking about meetings now. We're reimagining what meetings can be and and looking at what meetings need to happen and what meetings maybe don't need to happen. I was just listening to another podcast Where they were talking about a study in I think of 31,000 people, and they said meetings were the number one productivity problem. So Definitely a big problem. Let's dig into that into the basics, and then I want to take a different look at it from the perspective of where Some of our listeners are in terms of them being leaders who really want to make the workplace more compassionate and just because I have a belief that meetings are a key in that. But let's start with the basics. So what what are some of the biggest mistakes That lead to those ineffective and not engaging meetings.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:05:25]:

Yeah. I well, let's first start by saying like, No one taught us how to have meetings. So if you are if your meetings are not very good, it's okay. Like, you're not a mad person. Where we can all make our meetings better. And and the reason I point that out is because inevitably, when I was talking to folks about their meetings, No one ever said, oh my gosh. I run terrible meetings. Everyone always said, oh my gosh.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:05:50]:

I went to someone else's terrible meeting. And so it's important for us to remember that we are often the people leading these terrible meetings, but they don't always feel so terrible to us when we're the leader because We know what we want to get out of it. We know what we're trying to achieve. We know which people need to be there. And so oftentimes there's a disconnect Between the meeting leader and the meeting participants. The meeting leader is getting what they need, but the meeting participants are in need. So some of the solutions I'm gonna talk about are gonna seem a little like, oh, yeah, duh. Because that it is.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:06:24]:

It's excellent. It's for a meeting leader to just Embrace what some of the things they're already doing and making it more accessible and more specific and more clear for their meeting participants. So number 1, the number one thing that you need to do is set a desired outcome for your meeting, which is A statement about what the meeting will achieve, not what the meeting is about. So we're very good at saying we're gonna have this meeting to Discuss the report and the key findings. We're gonna have this meeting to review last quarter's budget Financials. But we those are great. Those are great activities, but they don't tell us at the end of the meeting What we were going to have accomplished? What work will be moved forward because of that discussion, because of that review, because, coming together.

Teri Schmidt [00:07:16]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:07:16]:

So we wanna shift from the why are we having this meeting to the what will this meeting accomplish. And it's a it's a brainteaser. Like, a lot of people push back and think, oh my gosh. I don't know how to write that. The trick is to use nouns, not verbs. So instead of saying verb, we are going to discuss, we're gonna brainstorm, we're gonna align, we're gonna ID it. We want to use 'naps'. We are going to end this meeting with a list of ideas to explore further.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:07:46]:

We're going to end this meeting with Fill in the blank. A decision about which vendor to use. We're gonna end the meeting with a recommendation to serve to the board of directors, Whatever it might be. And when you think about the noun, the thing that the meeting is gonna end with, it will put you into the mind instead of thinking about a desired outcome.

Teri Schmidt [00:08:05]:

Yeah. And it gets everyone on the same page and has the added benefit of you can almost check that Check that box when you're done. Right? And and get that little dopamine hit that you did altogether accomplish something.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:08:19]:

Exactly. Exactly. And the point about sharing that desired outcome with others, that's one of the things that managers get wrong. So many times we know in our head what we're trying to do. When we say We're gathering to brainstorm about what to do with the client feedback and the project. We know we're not just there to have fun brainstorming. In our minds, there's something we're driving towards. We just haven't articulated it in the way of a desired outcome.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:08:44]:

And we haven't told any of our colleagues Well, that is because we haven't said it explicitly. And so when we shift to writing a desired outcome, we then can share it with our colleagues. They now can come into the meeting ready with that in their minds of what we're here to do. And then you can also use it to facilitate the conversation to Keep yourselves on track. Because if we go into a brainstorm session, we say we're gonna brainstorm about how to solve this client problem. Some people might think, great. The end of the brainstorm is just some ideas that we're gonna go off and and do some more thinking about. Mhmm.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:09:19]:

While someone else may think the end of the brainstorm is we've Pose an an idea to move forward with, and that can create conflict and friction and frustration during the meeting because people have different ideas about What you're actually gonna accomplish in this session.

Teri Schmidt [00:09:33]:

Right. Right. Yeah. That alignment is so critical during the meeting, but also after the meeting. Because if you have 1 group of people who think, oh, we're great. We accomplished exactly what we were aiming for, and another group thinking, That was kind of a waste of time, and, you know, we're just gonna have to have another meeting. That can lead to friction not only within the meeting, but in future work as well?

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:09:55]:

Yeah. Absolutely. Well and that leads into another thing that managers get wrong that also has, like, a very, oh, yeah, Kind of solution, which is we think of meetings as an event. There's a start time. There's an end time. What happens in the meeting? That's the thing. When really meetings are part of a cycle. Mhmm.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:10:13]:

There's a whole phase called before the meeting. And that's when we do this work of defining the desired outcome, Figuring out who needs to be in that meeting to get the desired outcome? Planning out the agenda so you know what activities are we gonna do because we can do more than just talk. The beauty of technology now is that we can use it to help get more ideas, more thinking, better, deeper, more complex and richness into the room Beyond just having a conversation.

Teri Schmidt [00:10:41]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:10:42]:

So all of that thinking needs to happen before the meeting and it needs to get shared with people so they know What can they do to prepare? Are there materials they need to read? Are there reflections that they need to just process on? But there's a whole phase before the meeting. Then, of course, yes, we have the meeting. And then there's the after the meeting. What happens with the information that we generated during the meeting with those next steps? People need to know about them. There needs to be follow through. Plans need to get updated. So there's a whole phase of afterwards That also needs to be taken into consideration that the meeting leader is responsible for facilitating. And oftentimes, that then leads into The next meeting and preparing for the next meeting.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:11:24]:

So it creates a cycle. But when we stay in this narrow mindset that a meeting is an event and I show up When it starts and it's over when the clock strikes noon, we forget that there are parts of the meeting that we need to be attentive to before and after.

Teri Schmidt [00:11:39]:

Yeah. Yeah. Especially when we have, you know, back to back meetings. And having that time for the other parts of the cycle Can be difficult, but if we aren't spending that time, then should we really be having the meeting event itself?

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:11:56]:

That's exactly you just hit on exactly the thing, which is we think we don't have time to do the proper planning. And so we just show up and we have meetings. But so many of those meetings are wasteful because we didn't do the proper plan. And if we flip the script and we do the planning, we can have More effective meetings and fewer meetings. Because sometimes you discover through the process of asking yourself what's the desired outcome, Who needs to be here? What is our agenda gonna be? You might discover that a meeting is not necessary. Or Not all these people who I initially thought I should invite need to be in this meeting. They could also participate before or after, but not during.

Teri Schmidt [00:12:39]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:12:39]:

And so you start to pick up some of that time through savings because you're having better and fewer meetings Because you've been really thoughtful about them as opposed to taking every problem that comes up and just having a meeting about it because Right. Why not?

Teri Schmidt [00:12:54]:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think sometimes, and I've been guilty of this too. You you put a meeting on the calendar because you're using it as kind of a deadline, you know, to To get some tasks done. And you're not sure exactly what you're gonna do during that time, but you know you'll be prepared for it. So you you put it on there To force yourself to get those tasks done that need to happen.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:13:16]:

Completely. And we see this a lot with recurring meetings that Teams just land grab. Well, let's just have a standing meeting every week or every other week, and let's just get it on the calendar because we know calendars get complicated and so full. And then you end up meeting during those times because it's on the calendar. Even though you don't really have a good reason for meeting, but you also don't wanna give them up. So it becomes this like weird dynamic of going through the motions in an unhelpful way. Yeah. And there's there are just better ways to create deadlines.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:13:47]:

There's better ways to do follow-up than to just land grab and have meetings for reasons that meetings aren't really best designed for.

Teri Schmidt [00:13:54]:

I know I've heard you talk about too with prework. It's not just, here's a 200 page report. Please read it. But instead, you know, this is Specifically what you should focus on and and how we are going to use it in the meeting.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:14:09]:

Absolutely. Yeah. My rule of thumb is 10 minutes of prework maximum for every 30 minutes of a meeting. Mhmm. That it's just a rule of thumb. It's not based on anything scientific. It is really just the way that I have found for myself and many of my clients what's manageable. Mhmm.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:14:28]:

If the Number of meetings you likely have in a day and the amount of brainpower and time you can contribute to preparing for those meetings. If you're the meeting leader, it probably takes you more than If you're a participant that feels like something that's reasonable that you can get done before or between your meetings. And to your point, That prework is so important. It makes the meeting itself so much more effective. And I have to say that the pushback that I get from a lot of people is I do that. I send over a document, and I ask people to read it. And then inevitably, we show up, and nobody's read it. And so we Still have to take the 1st 15 minutes of the meeting for me to share it out because no one did it.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:15:09]:

And the people who did do it, Still, it's done everyone, and so they basically get punished and have to sit through 10 more minutes of listening to me reexplain it even though They read it because the other 4 people didn't show up. So what do we do with that? So there are a couple things that I tell meeting leaders say. The first thing is ask People a question that's relevant for the meeting and have them respond to you before the meeting. Mhmm. Right? Give them a task so that you can keep track of who has done the prework and who hasn't, and you can push the people then who haven't. So if you're asking them to read a document Or you're asking them to watch a TED talk about an idea that you wanna figure out how to bring into your teamwork. Ask them a question like, What's the number one thing you took away from this TED Talk that you think our team will benefit from? Or in the document you just read, What are 1 or 2 things that you feel are concerning about taking this approach forward? Give them a specific question so that they have to do the prework And then a minute response back to you by email. And now you know for sure they've done it, or who do I need to start nudging? Because it's 24 hours before the meeting and they haven't given me their response yet.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:16:20]:

Yeah. So that's the first tactic.

Teri Schmidt [00:16:21]:

I love that.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:16:22]:

Tactic, which is the, like, Throw the hammer down tactic is you don't you just don't review it. You show up at the meeting and you say, if you haven't read the pre work, if you haven't watched the video, if you haven't Then whatever I've asked you to do, either you need to leave the meeting and go do it and then come back and you can join us when you're done. Or We're gonna cancel the meeting because we can't have a productive conversation if not everybody is prepared. Yeah. And if you are willing to risk and the slowness of that process, because sometimes it takes a few times of canceling where people are like, oh, woah. Maybe it was really serious about that. If we don't show up for her meetings ready, like, we're gonna be kicked out or we're not gonna have the meeting, and that's gonna because all our deadlines are not changing. It just needs to be less time now to get things going.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:17:07]:

Mhmm. Oh, I'm gonna show up for Mamie's meetings prepared because she's running a tight ship. So different people have found that to be an effective way. And then the last 1 I'll share is that there are Teams who use intentionally the 1st few minutes of their meeting to do the prework. And the reason they do that is because Reading a 4 page document takes a, you know, a certain number of minutes, but it's contained. When you present that presentation, you may plan it to be 5 minutes, but 20 minutes in, you're still on slide 6. That's so true. Is trapped because the way of presentation, the way that we can interact with people, we get Stuck on a slide.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:17:51]:

We go down a rabbit hole or off on a tangent or stuck on a detail. But if it's premade, if it's an audio recording that you've prerecorded Or a document that you have prewritten that has a contained amount of time that has almost zero risk of taking up more time Then it's allotment. And so use the first 10 minutes of your meeting to allow people to read the document, listen to the recording, whatever it might be, And then start your meeting collectively right after that.

Teri Schmidt [00:18:21]:

Yeah. Yeah. Those are great options. And I I think fit All different personalities in terms of a meeting leader. And I think also getting back to what you said about the 10 minutes of prework for every half hour of meeting. If you truly abide by that, I think that will also help people to be more likely to do the prework because they know you're not going to throw something on them that That is going to be too onerous. That's gonna take too much time out of their day.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:18:47]:

Yeah. When you are attaching a document to an email and asking people to read it, Do not just say, please review this document. We've all done it. I do it too when I'm rushing and it's a really bad habit. What we really wanna say is The attached x y z document, please review this. It should take you approximately 10 minutes, and you don't even have to write out a whole It can just be, please read this document in parentheses, 8 minutes. Please respond to me by x date With your thoughts on the following question. Right? Give people those specific instructions.

Teri Schmidt [00:19:20]:

Great tips that you are sharing and and very practical. Coleen, things like you said, it doesn't take that much time to make the effort to put those in place, and it can have a huge impact on the meeting. Another thing that I know has a huge impact on meetings is making sure the right people are there. I wanna I wanna get on to kinda Talking a little bit about our our second half of topics, but do you have just a a short piece of advice about How to make sure the right people are there, and if you're invited and don't feel like you're one of the right people that should be in that meeting, how you can gracefully decline that?

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:19:59]:

Oh, yeah. So first and this is super unsatisfying, but the right people are the people that you need to get the work done. Right. That's that's how it is at its simplest form is who is needed to accomplish your desired outcome.

Teri Schmidt [00:20:11]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:20:12]:

Your desired outcome is your best friend as a meeting leader. It will tell you all the things you need to know, like who should be here, how much time do you think we're gonna need, what activities should we do. It's all based on those article. As a meeting leader, it can be very scary though to say, woah. I'm inviting these 3 people from my team, but not those 2 people. Oh, that feel kind of bad. I don't want them to feel And so I'll just invite them anyways. Nobody wants to be invited to a meeting they don't need to be at.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:20:40]:

It really isn't true. It's it's just not that the case. So if you would feel better inviting them, let them be optional. Tell them, hey. We're having this meeting. This is the desired outcome. If you have time and would like to join us, we'd love to have you there. If you have other priorities, totally cool.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:20:59]:

I want you to make the best decision for your time.

Teri Schmidt [00:21:02]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:21:02]:

People appreciate having the autonomy to make choices.

Teri Schmidt [00:21:06]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:21:06]:

That is a great way to start the process of creating an environment where not everybody needs to be in every meeting. The other part of that is if there are meeting outcomes that are relevant to those people's work, Informing them of it afterwards so that they can feel com comfortable and confident that even though they aren't in the meeting, they are still going to be in the loop. Because it sucks to find out 2 or 3 days later that the thing you were working on is no longer relevant because a meeting had a they made a decision and nobody told you. Yeah. So this is that meeting follow-up piece that meeting leaders have to remember is part of the cycle. Whatever comes out of the meeting, make sure people know what's going on who weren't theirs, but they can make sure their work is aligned and they're informed.

Teri Schmidt [00:21:50]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:21:51]:

Now, if you are invited to a meeting and you don't want to go, The first thing to do is to ask the meeting leader, hey, what's the desired outcome? What are you hoping this meeting will accomplish? If desired outcome feels like a weird thing And that's not what your meeting leader uses, that's fine. Just say, hey, thanks for the invite. I saw it come through. I'm curious. What are you hoping this meeting will accomplish? And that you can even go a step farther and say, and is there something in particular you're hoping that I will contribute to the meeting? And meeting leaders will come back to you and say, Thanks for asking. Here's what I want to accomplish, and here's how I think your perspective will be valuable. Or here's what I want to accomplish. Maybe this isn't the right meeting for you.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:22:33]:

Or let's talk about whether or not this is the right meeting for you. So you have a chance now to weigh in and say, That sounds great. I'm not sure that that is a place where I have value to contribute Mhmm. Or I have a lot of competing priorities. I'd I would Really bet benefit from having that time to work on something else. So you can create a conversation, but you have to know what the desired outcome is first. Yep. And the other part of that is, again, going back to the before and after, we can contribute before and after.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:23:04]:

You don't have to be I'd be happy to review the prework And share any thoughts ahead of time. So if they want you to participate because they wanna know your ideas, you can say, I'd be happy to share my ideas, but don't need to be in the meeting today. Can I review materials? And then I can send over some thoughts for you all. Mhmm. That's one way to contribute beforehand. Same on the after. Right? You could say, I can't be in the meeting, but I'd be happy to take responsibility for any tasks that come out that you'd like to assign to me. Yeah.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:23:31]:

So you're showing, demonstrating a willingness for the team to move forward even without your presence. Yeah. And those are some of the things that people can do To get out of a meeting? Because really, we should not only say no to a meeting because we're sick, we're out of the office, or we're double blocked. Right now, those are the only 3 acceptable re double reasons. We are trying to change that to, you can say no to a meeting if it's not the best use of your time.

Teri Schmidt [00:23:56]:

And it all comes back, again, like you said, to that meeting outcome. So if, you know, if you're listening to this and only want to pick 1 thing to fix, If you can fix that, it sounds like it's a domino effect for so many other things that are gonna make your meetings more effective.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:24:11]:

It really, really is.

Teri Schmidt [00:24:13]:

Well, let's talk about let's let's say that we have a leader who's employing all these practices and has a meeting, you know, with Very diverse perspectives, and research shows that diverse teams are only more innovative when they're managed well? You know, when because otherwise, what they're gonna do is focus on I just read an article by Anne Morris and Frances Fry who were talking about Common information effect. Mhmm. And the fact that, you know, if we're diverse in whatever way, we will focus on what we have in common. And that's what, you know, all of our decisions, all of our thoughts, all of our all of our discussions will focus on as opposed to if we can truly show up As our diverse selves bring diverse thoughts forward and we feel safe doing so in the meeting, then that just expands How much that we can work with in terms of innovating, solving problems, etcetera. So I'm curious from Your perspective, you know, what practices have you seen meeting leaders utilize that help to establish that psychological safety, that trust that can enable diverse teams to be more successful?

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:25:28]:

Yeah. The this is one of those places Technology really, really is a good friend to us all. There are so many tools now that allow people to participate Both in the mode that feels more comfortable for them. And also with some anonymity that allows them to say things, to speak truths Or share ideas that they might otherwise not yet feel safe to say publicly. And so using technology in your meetings is a really great way to not only actually get those ideas, to get those diverse perspectives, But also to make it a lot more fun. Mhmm. A lot more engaging, a lot more hands on. So we get the added benefit of it being more enjoyable while also getting the better thinking into the room.

Teri Schmidt [00:26:17]:

I love that. I love that. Can you give a like one example of a tool that you love That you've seen people use in meetings that can help with that?

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:26:25]:

Yeah. I could talk about a lot of them, but, I'll talk about a mind mapping because this is one that most teams haven't explored yet. So there are mind mapping tools like MindMeister. It's one of my favorites that as a team leader, you can set up a board. They have a free A free account option. You can set up a board with a question, and you can have different branches. And anyone can go in, and it can be totally anonymous, and they can start typing answers into the mind map. And you don't doesn't have to be a total mind map organized.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:26:55]:

Like, you don't have to worry about all of that, That you can just have people putting their ideas into the document. Mhmm. But what's super cool is you can then move things around. So as a group, you can sort ideas together, but you can also vote. You can have people put a Tag or a flag or a sticky or a color, basically, to say I'm interested in these ideas. And so you can not only brainstorm, but you can then ask people for their input and their feedback, and it could be all anonymous. It's a great way for teams to come together to really share, like, I think this is the best idea or I'm really concerned about that idea over there In a way that is totally anonymous and very fast. Because you just don't have to wait for each person to go around and say, I like this idea.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:27:45]:

I like that Idea. Right. So you get the speed of it as well.

Teri Schmidt [00:27:49]:

Yeah. And then you don't get the effect of, you know, if there's someone more senior in the room, You know, everyone going along kind of on the bandwagon with their idea.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:27:58]:

Yes, exactly. That's the benefit of of anonymity. Yeah. Right? Anytime that you can make idea sharing anonymous, you eliminate the bias that comes with who is the person that said it And how do I feel about that person consciously or unconsciously? And it just and it again, the beauty of having Technology and being able to put content at the same time also gives you more ideas.

Teri Schmidt [00:28:23]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:28:23]:

And so if you have 5 minutes And you are gonna go around round robin style and have every person share their ideas. If you have 5 people in your room, you get 1 minute per person. If you're putting information into a mind map or a Google Doc or a Miro board or a mural, You get 5 minutes of each person's ideas. That's now 25 minutes of value that you just got, even though you only took 5 minutes Of the meeting time. Yeah. So that's another way to eliminate the hierarchy of who's getting to speak, who's getting to hold the microphone. You now get everyone's voice equally into the room, and

Teri Schmidt [00:29:03]:


Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:29:04]:

so much more information to go off of.

Teri Schmidt [00:29:06]:

Yeah. I I love that. And it also takes the you know, Some of the responsibility off of the team leader or the meeting leader, I would say, to kind of synthesize ideas and Maybe decide which ideas are most relevant because you have like, with that voting feature, you have the ability to give the group that power.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:29:28]:

Exactly. Exactly.

Teri Schmidt [00:29:29]:

That kinda gets to my last question about virtual meetings and how you can set them up so they enable Connection and that trust building like I was talking about. And the reason I say it's connected is because if you do have the team Collaborating. You know, if they're all fulfilling a certain role to help make that meeting successful, then they are naturally Almost forced to be engaged, 1st. And second, you know, you're all working toward a common goal to have An effective meeting that reaches your desired outcome. But what else would you say about virtual meetings? Because I've been in Some meetings where maybe someone doesn't have their camera on, and you can't tell if they're, you know, multitasking or doing something else. Or maybe their camera's on, but They're, you know, 10 feet away from the camera. It's propped up somewhere, so you don't really get that face to face connection. What do you advise teams to do in order to make their virtual meetings more effective?

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:30:34]:

To start with, It's okay to have a meeting about your meetings. Sit down with your team and say, how what is working about the way that we are leading our meetings right What's working about the way that we're meeting virtually and what feels like it's not working as well as it could? And talk about, like, It's hard when people have cameras off. It's hard when people walk away from their cameras and we don't know what's going on. It's hard when We're all like multitasking. Right? It doesn't feel good. So it's okay to talk to your team about these things and acknowledge them and that they're hard. Not That we are all struggling with these things. If you take some of the very basic meeting techniques that we talked about already, those will Start to help make your meetings more effective, your virtual meetings too, automatically because you'll stop inviting people who don't need to be in those meetings.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:31:24]:

And people will be more engaged because they know what the meeting is trying to accomplish and how they can contribute to that. Mhmm. And hopefully you're gonna start using some technology. It's even actually easier to use in virtual meetings than when you're sitting around a table in person. And that virtual technology creates engagement as well. And then there are lots of other little things like having norms around using your cameras on or off, having norms around, wearing headphones, having norms about putting other technology away, and having norms about calling people out when you see that they are not paying attention.

Teri Schmidt [00:31:58]:

Mhmm. Mhmm.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:31:59]:

When we're sitting around a table, it's there's just less to be visibly distracted when we're in person. Sure. Some people will pick up their phone and go on the table. And if they do that, you should also call them out about it too. Right? Unless they have explicitly said, Hey. My child's sick at school. I'm waiting for the pediatrician to call me back. Then, yeah, you pick up your phone.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:32:20]:

Okay. That's fine. But if you haven't given a reason why you need to be on your phone during a meeting, there's no reason you should be picking up your phone. And if you see someone in a meeting do that, You should say, Mimi, is there something going on that you need to step away from, or can you, you know, stay focused with us today? Right? And let's give them the opportunity. Maybe something important happened and they do need to step away. But in a virtual meeting, we tend not to call people out like that. But a private chat message, Maybe we can tell that you're not paying attention right now. We get it.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:32:49]:

Right? Everybody has the inclination to do that because we're trying to do double duty with our virtual meetings. But you wouldn't do that in a in person meeting. Yeah. And so we need to level set, have our norms, make the meetings engaging and relevant And call people out. If you notice that they're not paying attention, they're not following your norms, call people out and then talk to them afterwards. What's going on? Why is this meeting not working for us? If this Format isn't working. If this length of meeting, if this topic, whatever it is, let's figure how to fix it because meetings should be a place where people want to be, Where they are engaged and contributing their best thinking, where they're building those relationships with their colleagues and good work is getting done?

Teri Schmidt [00:33:29]:

Yes. Yes. I think we can just take that sound bite and and set that as a goal for all of our meetings. This has been so helpful. And I I just wanna quickly touch on the team norms. Like you said, having a meeting about meetings. You know? If you can set those before you need them and You all come up with them collaboratively. That makes it so much easier.

Teri Schmidt [00:33:50]:

I think people might be squirming when you're talking about calling people out. But if you have already decided that Beforehand, it makes it so much easier.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:33:59]:

Exactly. And calling people out can just be a nice chat on the side. It doesn't have to be in front of everyone in the meeting. Right? Plus, of course, someone's screen sharing and they're showing you their insights.

Teri Schmidt [00:34:09]:

Then you might want to. Well, I look forward to people having much more effective And engaging meetings where everyone is doing their best work. And by nature, fewer meetings because we all know why we're meeting And are only meeting when we need to. But if people would like to learn more about you, if they want to grab your book, Where is the best place for them to go and connect with you and find out about all the great work you're doing?

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:34:39]:

Awesome. Yeah. So the book is called Momentum, Creating Effective, Engaging, and Enjoyable Meetings. It's available on Amazon And other bookstores. And you could also download the 1st chapter for free on my website, meteor.commeete o r. That has all my meeting trainings, all the stuff about meetings. And if you're interested in meetings and beyond meetings around management, Go to the There you'll find tons of other resources, my own podcast, The Modern Manager, and just a lot of great free resources for managers.

Teri Schmidt [00:35:15]:

Yeah. I highly highly recommend anyone who's looking for great resources to go there. I love the podcast. I'm excited that I had an opportunity to have a conversation with you on that as well.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:35:27]:

So Yeah.

Teri Schmidt [00:35:27]:

Definitely check that out. And thank you again for coming on, for sharing your wisdom, sharing the really practical steps that people can take To make all different types of meetings more engaging.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart [00:35:40]:

Absolutely. It's my pleasure.

Teri Schmidt [00:35:47]:

So which of I know I'll be using her tips about prework. Have a great have a great week, and until next time. Lead with this quote by Bill Russell in mind: "The magic to a great meeting is all of the work that's done beforehand."


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