Meetings are where ideas go to die

I dislike meetings. Especially those that go on for two hours and the only task you have to do at that meeting is listen. Many meetings can drag on way too long and go beyond schedule. Despite this, a lot of people seem to like meetings because they create the illusion of one having been productive. They are supposed to be places where ideas get discussed. When they run too long, however, most people start checking their phones under the table (if they can get away with it) or even fall asleep.

Meetings are inevitable for some people. If you are one of those people, you have my sympathies. However, there are some policies you can get your organisation to adopt that can make your meetings more productive.

Have an agenda

Anyone who convenes a meeting should also send an agenda. If they can’t tell us what is going to be discussed at the meeting and how long it will last, they probably have no idea themselves. An agenda ensures people who speak too long or go off point can be called to order saving everyone time.

A meeting in progress
Calling a meeting? Have an agenda

Let us know why we should be there

Why do you want to call a meeting? Do you need our opinions on the new design for the logo? Or do you just want to brief us on the progress being made with the adoption of the new accounting software? If it’s just an update, it would be faster and more efficient to send an email and allow people to reply with their questions. Before you ask someone to join a meeting, they should know what you expect from them. There is no reason for you to invite Hafsat from Graphic design to a meeting with the Account department to discuss the numbers from last quarter for the Human Resources Department.

A stick figures in the meeting
What do you need me for?

Keep it short

Nobody wants to be stuck in a meeting for 3 hours if they can help it. The US army is famous for having 15 minute standing meetings every morning. The discomfort of having to stand throughout a meeting forces everyone to come to the point. The glares you are likely to receive when you start talking for too long will also reinforce the point.

The word "meeting" handwritten
How long will it take?

Close all meetings

End all discussions five minutes before the end of a meeting. Agree on any action points so participants can know what they are expected to do afterwards. If a topic needs to be discussed at the next meeting, agree on the date of the next meeting before closing.

What are your thoughts? Do you regularly find yourself in meetings that run far too long? I have a confession to make. One of the happiest days in my life was the day, our weekly office meetings got cancelled freeing up our Friday afternoons. For over a year, our Fridays have been free of weekly meetings. Sadly, those meetings got brought back a few weeks ago. As at the time of writing this post, I have not been asked to attend a meeting to discuss a meeting. Hopefully, things will remain that way.

One thought on “Meetings are where ideas go to die

  1. You have definitely touched on a few important points. I always find management meetings when veering off topic can go over time with some attendees not knowing the outcomes or vision moving forward. I therefore also make certain a precise agenda is established before meetings are to take place with “parking” allotted time for anything new that may come out of the meeting that was not on the agenda but relevant to decisions or clarity on projects moving forward. Its also important to have 1 person set as the time manager of the meeting to make certain things stay on track and within the time constraints. There is a company (albeit a fitness driven one) that has its members plank so that the staff meeting remains short and sweet, a rather effective idea but not ideal for all companies 😉


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