Hone your meeting skills - three parts to a meeting


The next time you find your mind wandering in yet another meeting, I have some homework for you. Rather than sneaking a peek at your email under the table, or tamping down irritation about another hour-long waste of productivity, I propose a little game you can play to strengthen your meeting skills.

The game is called THE THIRD EYE. You imagine you have another eye looking down at the meeting from the corner of the room. That eye takes in all three parts of the meeting—like an impartial video. It’s harder than it sounds because you have to hear what is going on from a content perspective, but you also have to pick up on how the meeting is being run and how the participants are behaving.  

The three parts to every meeting are:

  • The content (The topic you are talking about.)
  • The process (How the meeting is being run.)
  • The group dynamics (How people are acting.)
Skilled facilitators can do all three at once. In fact, it’s one of the reasons facilitators are used –they typically are objective outsiders, so they don’t get so “hooked” by the content and can judge it more objectively. And, since they aren’t affected by the content directly, they can be that impartial video that observes the process and dynamics more easily.  

If you have never paid much attention to each of the three parts, you are in for an interesting “ah ha.” You may discover that two people give each other knowing looks when one of their peers speaks up. Or, you may discover that the group always differs to one of their peers. You may get some interesting insights on how the group reaches decisions, or what causes them to wander from the agenda. 

While content is the main act, the supporting roles that process and group dynamics play can make a huge difference in the overall success or failure of any meeting. If you get a skilled eye, you can not only run a better meeting yourself, you will be able to make valuable suggestions that will lead to better meeting outcomes.  

If you’re new at this, pick one of the three parts of a meeting and study it for about 15 minutes. Then switch gears and choose another part, and so on. 


Pay attention to the topics and the words people use to discuss them. Who put the topic on the agenda and what is their objective? Are participants making assumptions? Jumping to conclusions?  Taking someone’s facts as gospel without checking? Are the right people in the room—the ones affected by the decisions? Is the group talking about the right topics—high priority items? Does this group have the authority to make decision? 


How is the meeting structured? Was an agenda created verbally or in writing? Is the group wandering all over? Are any decisions being made, or is this the umpteenth time the topic has been discussed? Is everyone being solicited for their opinion? Does the leader seem to be pushing his idea? Is time being wasted on one topic that isn’t a priority?  Are there assignments being made at the end or are people just leaving because the meeting went on too long? 


How are participants behaving? Who is quiet and who is doing most of the talking—and who are they looking at when they talk? Does someone try to make a comment, only to have someone else talk over them or dismiss their remark? Who does the leader look at most often? Where are people sitting—is anyone sitting farther away from the meeting table? Does anyone look irritated or bored? Are they listening to each other? Overly polite with each other? 

Once you get good at THE THIRD EYE you will probably find yourself making suggestions that will improve the meeting. For example, “We’ve been talking about this topic for ten minutes and we probably need to either make a decision or give it to someone to study and come back with a recommendation.”  Or, “We seem to be getting off the topic.” Or, “Why don’t we put the last agenda item first, since it’s a hot priority right now.”  

You may never be bored in a meeting again! 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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