February 2, 2016
You’ve probably heard the famed axiom by Jason Fried, Meetings are Toxic. We at Webconnex couldn’t agree more. Our twist to the same notion, is to say that meetings are soul crushing.
We even have this printed on a company t-shirt.
We try to have as few meetings as possible in order to have the most productive work environment. Unfortunately, not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of abandoning meetings.Two weeks ago, there was a particular request for a meeting that wouldn’t quit. Despite telling the person the reason for the meeting could be easily solved over email or phone, they insisted. A meeting it must be! They were convinced the only way to work through the objective was a face to face meeting across town with a 2 others. My best weaseling skills proved futile.The meeting was painful. Utterly painful.As I anticipated, it was not even necessary, and worse, the meeting could have been shortened by 80%.The only reason I took this meeting was because having a meeting is the only way this person knows how to work through solutions. I also realize that our embargo on meetings doesn’t always work for every situation.So in the instances that someone must indeed have a meeting, here are 7 tips to make your meeting less miserable.
Only invite people who are absolutely necessary to the meeting. Just because someone is impacted by the topic doesn’t mean they need to attend the meeting. Possibly that person can get the quick 2–3 minute bottom line and summary that applies to them. Keep attendees strictly to people who have to hear and participate in the entire meeting.
Meetings take people away from something important they could be working on (including yourself). Meetings usually incorporate lots of transitional small chat that takes up a long time. Save that after the meeting when other people are free to get back to work. Not everyone wants to overhear group small chat. If you start the meeting with, “Okay, let’s get started” you will instantly redeem 10 minutes of your day.
Need to seek approval or permission on something? Just get it out. Usually prior to seeking a request, the person feels the needs to give a lengthy backstory building up to the request. If the context and background are needed, give it after the request.
Meetings usually get hijacked by tangent ideas. It’s common for people to get sidetracked by worthwhile ideas, but when this happens, your meeting transforms into brainstorming session. Brainstorming is fine, but they can get wildly out of control fast without structure or discipline. Plan a brainstorming session for a different time with the right people.
Meetings are plagued with people who spend way too much consecutive time speaking. If you are talking for longer than 2 consecutive minutes at any given time, your meeting has stopped being a meeting and has become a lecture. The human attention span is about 2 minutes before it starts to wander. Stop frequently to validate the view and direction your meeting is going. Don’t underestimate how boring it can be to be forced to listen to someone talk endlessly.
Lengthy meetings have a tendency to leave people behind along the way. As the meeting progresses, make sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t wait until the end to ask questions as that usually leads to reviewing previously stated information. Check-in regularly with attendees to make sure they are following. Say things like, “Make sense so far?” “Any questions on that?” “Is that clear?” Don’t leave anyone behind and make sure everyone understands as you go.
Do something unheard of: End a meeting early (Gasp!). It seems like human nature to expect every meeting to take an hour. Even meetings that don’t need to be that long get filled up with nonsense to bridge the time. Meetings don’t need to fill an hour. If your meeting only requires 16 minutes, end the meeting there. Don’t take a millisecond extra than you need. People will thank you.For many, meetings are a way of life for their organization. We at Webconnex don’t like meetings, but sometimes they are unavoidable. So while it may not be possible to eliminate all meetings, we hope applying some of these 7 tips will help your meetings suck less.