Friday, April 23, 2010

Are Meetings Obsolete?

In a recent article in FierceCIO they asked if business meetings were still necessary. They went on to discuss some new videoconferencing tools and how young executives prefer to manage via email and chat.

Personally, I hate meetings. They are usually an enormous waste of time. I can't tell you how many times I have sat through useless reunions of pompous executives droning on endlessly about internal departmental issues that have no relevance. Or worse they devolve into bitch and gripe sessions where everyone blames each other for a lack of communication.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Business meetings are an opportunity to exchange useful, actionable information. It is a chance to chart new directions, start new initiatives, pitch new ideas. With a few simple ideas, you can make all your meetings productive.

  1. Have regular meetings.
    Your different teams should meet on a regular basis. Monthly, weekly, quarterly -- whatever makes sense to your business. For example, a monthly executive meeting can be set for the first Monday of every month. That let's people schedule them ahead of time.

  2. Have an agenda.
    You should never have a meeting without an agenda. Everyone attending the meeting should be able to submit items for the agenda 48 hours prior to the meeting. From the submissions, you decide what goes onto the meeting agenda.

  3. Set a time limit. Start on time.
    Everyone attending needs to know that the meeting will start and end at a specific time. Any agenda items that weren't discussed will be bumped to the next meeting. Start on time -- don't wait for anyone. No exceptions. This enforces discipline and makes the meetings an important priority.

  4. Cut people off.
    Some people have a habit of babbling or droning on. Stop them. Be firm and polite -- this isn't a monologue, it's a dialog. If necessary, set time limits for each person to present.

  5. Follow Up.
    Afterwards, send an email with notes from the meeting. Include all decisions and follow up information. This doesn't have to be a verbatim transcript! Just stick to the major points that were decided.

You can start making your meetings productive. Just use some common sense and you can curb the worst parts of the meeting experience. Avoid those free flowing discussions that lead no where. Or worse, the blame game where executives pass the buck quicker than a hot potato.

Meetings are a valuable tool when used properly. They let your leadership come together to discuss strategy, new initiatives and ideas. It's a way to build a team spirit and get everyone moving in the same direction.

How do you deal with meeting hell?

Louis Rosas-Guyon's FREE 5-week e-Course for Eliminating Tech CostsR-Squared Computing - Business Technology Experts
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