It’s time to wage war against meetings.
They’re becoming dreadful: longer, more frequent, more unfocused, less helpful, ad nauseam.
It’s time for meeting organizers to step up and turn this trend around, one meeting at a time. How can you be the Champion of Successful Meetings?
Simple: Stop having them. (I jest)
They are evil – eating into calendars of busy professionals. But they are also a necessary evil.
To set the stage, Jeanine Turner, Ph.D, Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business polled Ivy Exec members in a recent Online Master Class. One third of those polled reported attending on average 6 or more meetings per week, and 46% said at least 3-5, indicating that most people are spending almost an entire work day every week in meetings.
Here are the 4 main reasons they are so dreadful.
Too Many Meetings
Turner identified some of the most common reasons people call meetings:
- I want to bring people up to speed
- I need input
- I need approval
- I want people to get to know each other so people know what other people are working on
The only valid reason above is the second. And sometimes – just sometimes – number three. “A lot of meetings unfortunately, are 1 and 4,” said Turner, “I really don’t want anything from the people there, but I think it is important for them to know this…there should never be FYI meetings.”
If you want to bring people up to speed on something – that’s why Al Gore invented the internet: do it in the form of an email.
If you are planning a ‘getting to know you’ meeting where you go in a circle and share what everyone is up to and what they’ve been working on – drop it. We will touch upon why you shouldn’t have this type of meeting in a little bit.
So before scheduling any meeting – ask yourself: will an email do the trick?
The Wrong Audience
“Meeting attendance shouldn’t be like a kids birthday party: ‘we don’t want anyone to feel left out – so lets invite everyone'” said Turner.
Be selective with who you invite and make sure the content is relevant to them. If possible, only invite team managers, and have them relay the need to know information to their respective teams (preferably, in an email)?
Non-Relevant Meeting Content
Remember our ’round robin’ meeting scenario? “That used to be a good reason for a meeting” said Turner. “People would have weekly staff meetings…everybody goes around and says what they’re working on…hopefully someone says ‘oh I’m working on something similar, let’s connect and discuss’…that never happens.” It never happens, and you shouldn’t schedule these kinds of meetings to hope that it happens.
These meetings turn into waiting games. Everyone can see who is next in the clockwise movement around the table, predict how long it will take for it to be their turn, and tune out until it’s their turn! If you are considering a ‘what are people up to?’ meeting, remember Turner’s sage advice: “[tweet bird=”yes”]The potential for relevance is not as important as relevance.[/tweet]”
When considering what is relevant, go through these steps:
- who is your audience
- what do they care about
- what part of your topic matters to them
- what do you need from them
- why do you want them at this meeting?
It may be possible that only a certain part of your meeting is relevant to a person at a given time. So invite them for that part of your meeting, and let them come and go when not needed.
Remember, every meeting needs to have a goal. ‘We are meeting here to identify the reasons why Q4 revenue was down, and agree upon a plan to turn it around next year.’ This illustrates a problem (drop in revenue), and a goal (come up with a plan to reverse it).
Once you have determined your goal, create a meeting agenda and stick to it! For example (and you want to include this in the meeting invite): 2:00-2:10 – Defining the problem. 2:10-2:30 Identify reasons revenue was down. 2:30-2:50 Come up with a new plan for Q1 of next year. 2:50-2:55 agree on next steps and assign someone to send meeting notes to all participants.
One trick Turner suggests to get your audience in the right mindset before the meeting is to set the agenda as questions, rather than statements. For example, you would ask them: “How did we reach out goals this quarter? What were the road blocks?” as opposed to “Quarterly Update.”