Meetings Just Don't Have To Be So BAD

People complain about how much time they spend in meetings, how little work they get done because of meetings, and how frustrating it is to be present in those meetings. It's been eighteen years since I had an inside job so I'm empathetic but haven't lived it for a good while.

But now I'm involved with an organization and I'll have a chance to put my money where my mouth is :-)

The organization is a good example of well-intentioned meetings gone astray. Agenda? Check. A list of topics, pretty standard. Start time? Check. Location? Check. Basic housekeeping handled.

But this is not enough to have a productive, satisfying, energetic meeting. You need a clear purpose ("monthly team meeting" doesn't count), desired outcomes ("talk about agenda items" doesn't count), a facilitator (it can be the person who called the meeting), and one more thing.

At the risk of sounding like a Facebook "You Probably Don't Know This!" person, the one thing that always seems to be missing, that also makes the biggest difference between a good and a bad meeting, is HOW each agenda item will be executed. Will the item owner talk for twenty minutes and we listen? Will the group vote on an idea? Will each person be asked to give their opinion? Will a decision be discussed and made? People were invited for a reason - what do you want them to do?

Because I'm telling you, it is a huge waste of time to sit in a meeting not knowing what my role is other than "sponge." Maybe that'll be your mantra for 2024, "I Am Not A Meeting Sponge." Because that's the role you have when the method of dispatching an agenda item is not defined and someone ends up just talking. 

If the methods are undefined anything could happen! They could go into excruciating detail about something no one needs to know, or attendees could start throwing out pissy comments without a clear point to make, or someone could say "let's discuss" and the talk wanders all over the place until you're out of time. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. 

So the next time you're about to go into a meeting, ask yourself if you know the purpose and why you in particular need to be there. Dare to ask. 

I had a client once who, upon creating an agenda with the method/process defined for each topic, declared that her meetings were "The Jane Show!" (Name changed for privacy) She realized that each topic was simply something that she wanted to talk on but didn't have a plan for the attendees (sponge). 

If all you want to do is talk but not have any interaction, put it in an email. Rant complete.


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