I’ve made no secret of my disdain for regular meetings in the past.
I hate the ‘I need to say something clever’ brigade and the waste of valuable energy and time spent dealing with these comments.
I hate the meetings that simply exist to ‘tick a box’ and report on information that really should already be transparent to the business.
I hate the ‘non-committers'; wracked by a seemingly unshakable belief in not rocking the boat, if you have nothing to add don’t attend.
Most of all, I hate the product of group-think, a weakened and often bloated version of any original concept. Are all meetings useless? Not at all, but they should be by exception, if you’re having regular reporting or status meetings you have your communication all wrong.
I truly believe status meetings are organised to hide or cover some deficiency in the team or project. Meetings should be tied directly to a decision or action and should certainly not be a way of deferring action.
If you absolutely do need a meeting, at least follow some simple guidelines; none of the below is new. I’m sure there are countless articles which have the same advice, yet time and again I still see the same mistakes made.
Agenda tied directly to decisions
Make sure each agenda point represents a decision you are after. Be very clear, state the nature of the decision you are after.
If you want a specific discussion put specific agenda points, otherwise you’re just opening the scope for deviation, and please, if you do nothing else, circulate the agenda before the meeting which leads me to the next point.
I’m always surprised by the amount of people who don’t prepare for meetings. You need to have your supporting evidence, metrics and information ready to go. The discussion part of the meeting should be kept to a minimum and ideally the majority of discussion points should be accounted for as much as possible prior to the meeting.
If people are genuinely surprised by the information you’re bringing to the table then you really need to look at better communication.
Set a time limit and stick to it. Set time limits on each agenda/decision item. If you let the timebox creep you’re not reinforcing the message that attendees need to prepare before the meeting and most definitely you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Make sure you repeat the agreed decisions and actions at the end of the meeting. Draw a line under it and move on. Be very clear that this meeting is done and do not let a meeting overhang happen.
(A meeting overhang is where an attendee aims to keep the agenda points going via an email discussion after the meeting)