Do You, or Your Company, Screw Up Meetings?

no_meetings_funny_office_saying_sticker-r8f98b046a5c14c4eb859a1553d1b3360_v9waf_8byvr_512A friend recently shared a funny video about conference calls and what they would look like if they were in person.  It’s made the social media rounds, but was still good for a laugh one more time.  It got me thinking about meetings… specificaly conference calls, since I work from home.  I pulled up my calendar and just looking at 2015, it appears I spend anywhere between 10- 50% of my week sitting in some type of meeting.

Like many jobs, the meeting has turned into the commonly accepted way of disemminating information as well as a way to bring people together.  The issue is that it has become the most irrelevant mode of communication for many reasons.  Here are just a few:

  • Employees don’t have time to get their other work done.  I don’t know about you, but when I am stilling in a meeting or on a call, there is no way I can do anything else.  I sit there the whole time thinking about all the other work I need to be doing, especially if I’m one of the people in the meeting who doesn’t really need to be there.  This leads me to…
  • The wrong people are invited.  How many meetings are you asked to attend and when you walk out (or hang up) you’re thinking “Why was I just in that for an hour?”  All the time!  Meeting organizers need to think long and hard about who is invited.  As a rule of thumb, if you don’t plan on the person making a verbal contribution to a decision, don’t invite them to the call.  Find another routine way to send information for those who need to know, but don’t need to make the decision.
  • The meeting takes too long.  I was listening to a show about the TED talk recently and they said that TED landed on the 18 minute presentation because it’s about how long an adult can remain focused without drifting to thoughts of something else.  Seems about right when I think of my own attention span at a meeting.  Try this….make your next meeting 18 minutes.  Your colleagues will thank you and be much happier to attend any future meetings you organize.
  • Speaking of time….it doesn’t end when it’s over.  One of my biggest pet peeves in work life is that meetings are scheduled for an hour.  Often, even if the agenda has been gone through, people still hang in there and add more.  We’re all adults here.  If you tell me we’re going to talk about these four things and we finish, end the meeting.  Employees have 20 other things on their plate they can go back and work on.  Don’t drag out what isn’t necessary.  If this means that one meeting is 18 minutes and the next is 31, great.  At least you won’t be keeping everyone the full hour.  I used to have a boss that would say he was “gifting” the time back to us.  I love that and always walked out with a smile on my face.
  • Distractors ruin the moment.  This is a BIG no-no in my book.  If you’re leading the meeting and a person (or two) derail the meeting with nonsense, stop them.  It’s disrespectful to everyone to let that happen.  We’re not all here for fun and chit-chat, it’s work.
  • Late people interrupt the flow.  This is a related cousin of the last one.  If you’re arriving within 2 minutes of the start time, ok.  Anything after that, just don’t come.  You disturb the flow of the conversation and distract everyone.  ESPECIALLY on conference calls…”DING!” Trish has now entered the call.

When I worked at PwC, I had a good policy that if I attended a meeting and I was clearly not needed, I’d discretely get up and leave.  After making it known to colleagues not to invite me if I wasn’t needed, I had fewer meetings to attend.  The ones I attended, I was able to weigh in and add my ideas.  The rest….well, somehow the company still ran without me in them.  It all worked out.

What are your tactics for managing through the meeting madness?  Share them in the comments.