Meetings. ::::heavy sigh::: Few of us enjoy them. Looking back over the years, I have realized that the first 2-3 minutes of a meeting end up shaping my mood, which is often times a little crusty. It’s when the door closes and you’re in stuck in there, realizing that the chairperson hasn’t prepped and the faces in attendance aren’t all the right ones. Or more than you need. But you can’t get out….
I take on the challenge every day of trying to reduce the amount of meeting time on my calendar…just for sport. All it takes is a little work ahead of time. Here are my tips:
Where you are the organizer:
- Embrace the idea that an hour is made up of 60 minutes. You can schedule any amount of those. Start by planning for a 15 or 30 minute meeting and then justify to yourself why it needs to be longer.
- Only invite people who truly need to attend. Respect everyone’s time.
- Grease the rails if you need to. Circulate the day before and stop people in the halls to tell them why you are depending on their attendance. Supplement by advising of any support or other help you will need in the meeting. Will help you drive to the right outcome while you ensure they show up and contribute.
- Be prepared to truly chair the meeting by kicking it off, stating objectives and decisions that need to be made. Control the conversation and drive to an on-time ending.
- If you have a 3rd party coming in to present (internal or external), insist on reviewing their materials before hand to ensure length is appropriate and content is on point. With agencies and particularly vendors, I also only give them half the time they ask for while directing them to “just give me your (insert number 15 or under) best slides”.
- Publish notes and follow-ups via a concise e-mail. Hold all those invited accountable whether they attended or not.
Where you are invited:
Use your judgment here, as much depends on who is organizing the meeting and what the subject matter is. Certain meetings are just plain mandatory as they are team or all company meetings. You will find yourself invited to a number of other meetings, though; it is these I reference.
Approach your boss or, if appropriate, the meeting organizer. Ask questions. Learn about the agenda and your expected role. When you are more senior you can take this a step further to set expectations that the chair is prepared but otherwise poke around to figure out if you really need to be there or if you can contribute offline in some other way. There usually is. Sometimes you can even solve their problem for them outside of the meeting. Irrespective of how you manage, always show sensitivity to the organizer and their objectives to maintain your equity as a team player.
In circumstances where I find I must attend yet I have no vested interest in the subject matter, I always ‘bring work’: something to read discreetly or else I bring a notepad to doodle my way through a problem or storyboard a presentation I have to compile later…all under the guise of taking meeting notes (a part of me hopes that not a lot of people read this paragraph ….but…there it is :::shrug:::). Do this at your own risk, though. Again, judgment!
People talk about ROI as if the “I” is always money. Not for me. Time and people are also precious resources, so it’s been a part of my personal brand to create efficiency for all when deploying these assets. Start thinking this way yourself to generate efficient meeting outcomes while being seen as someone who delivers value.