Other stories by Thomas Sugar

The concept of a ‘job for life’ holds little interest to the talented youngsters entering the workforce today. But even the most old school big businesses can up their staff retention game. And it all starts with changing the way they run meetings.

The corporate world is full of archaic curiosities. I mean, who wears a tie to work anymore (unless someone dies of boredom?)? Fax machines? Desktop computers? A job for life? They have as much place in the modern office as sexual harassment and smoking rooms.

I exaggerate, of course, but let’s be honest: the prospect of a 30 year career at an established business is pretty outdated – as more and more millennials eschew middle management at a multinational for a two year stint at a small-fry startup. As a result, a very real employee retention problemhas come to light.

There are stacks of reasons why this is happening. To some extent it’s a symptom of the economic zeitgeist; a world in which youngsters who saw their parents lose jobs are understandably much more cautious. While many businesses seek to overcome these issues by addressing everything from flexible working to talent management, in fact the solution might be a lot simpler than many assume: meetings.

Fewer, shorter meetings.

Meeting culture is highly toxic. Think of it as a gateway drug for employee apathy. One bad experience leads to another. And another. A single unproductive meeting results in unestablished aims, objectives, and outputs – wasted time and money. But they also inflict another, deeper wound: a cultural one.

Culture Clash

Company culture is often seen as having a direct correlation with customer service. And it does. But a business’ belief system, mission statement, and vision is also aligned with employees’ behaviours towards each other. If a toxic meeting culture persists, it could be symptomatic of a wider problem: one that will ultimately affect the company’s reputation as an employer.

Are our management egos so inflated that we assume everyone called into our meeting actually wants to be there and hangs on every single word we say? The HIPPO’s (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) days are numbered. It’s on those in charge to make our meetings more engaging; more structured, relevant, and purposeful.

Those familiar with software development will have heard of Agile methodology, Kanban boards, and other time/process management-focused phenomena. Pecha Kucha– a Japanese discipline designed to keep presentations short and sweet – is gaining momentum globally. So why can’t these things be applied to meetings?

They can, but they need championing. They require top down support and bottom up implementation in large companies. But the biggest stumbling block is the fact both managers and employees are too caught up in the vicious cycle of legacy business behaviours

Teams working together to improve meetings

Action Speaks Louder

Savvy operators know that work is one giant pitch. All good managers realize that getting staff excited about the possibilities is so much more effective that boring them into submission. But even so, millennials are a generation of action. They’d rather be addressing the issues themselves than talking about ways to adopt initiatives.

It’s not just work-life balance that matters to this 56 million-strong generation of employees: work-work balance plays a big part. By this I mean the need for meaningful work – the chance to make an impact through what they’re doing – something they can’t do if they’re stuck in meetings. In such cases, actual work gets pushed into their own time, which never makes for contented employees. Can you really blame them for leaving you to shack up at startup?

Not all businesses are startups and tech companies – and nor should they be. However,

those climbing the ranks of bigger companies can learn a thing or two about keeping good people around from them.

I’ve had the opportunity to interview a stack of leading employees from a number of successful tech companies in my quest to understand meeting culture – including Evernote, Buffer, and Kickstarter; as well as Spotify, Airbnb, Dropbox, and PayPal – and one of the common traits I’ve noticed is that a good deal of preparation work is undertake even before the meeting takes place; to ensure that each one has clear objectives.

Many of these highly successful businesses categorize their meetings into short ‘information sharing sessions’ or longer, more in-depth task driven get-togethers. Often, meeting moderators or facilitators are appointed to ensure times and topics are kept. And next steps are always outlined to optimize post-meeting productivity and eliminate time-wasting second meetings.

Ultimately, companies that entertain laborious meetings and a culture of passive listening, bad planning, and meetings-for-meetings-sake will fail to attract the brightest and the best – who will seek sanctuary where they can actually get on with the work they’re paid to do.

Sure, they may have to attend the odd meeting; but when the result of each one is a well defined objective, rather than a license to procrastinate; they suddenly become a lot less of a chore.

Top tech companies like Evernote, Buffer etc are the masters of Scrum, of building fast and being willing to make mistakes along the way. In the quest for maximum productivity and results, they’ve eliminated time-wasters like ineffective meetings and with their insights, you can too.

Evernote: Andrew Malcolm, Chief Marketing Officer

One of the worst ways a company wastes time is by dragging thinkers into a meeting where their presence isn’t required. As Andrew Malcolm, Chief Marketing Officer at Evernote explains:

Research shows knowledge workers spend 80% of their day “collaborating” … which means we aren’t engaged in the deep work that is the real value add of someone who thinks for a living. So if I’m going to contribute to that 80% by asking you to be in a meeting, I better have a good reason for it.

Having said that, I think there are different types of meetings that warrant different attendees:

1) one way comms to create alignment – moments where an entire team needs to hear the exact same message can be larger but these should be infrequent – eg all hands for major announcements

2) decision making meetings – at Evernote we call these debate, decide, commit meetings should have as few people as possible to make a decision. The greater the trust in an org, the smaller this number can be as people expect one another to do the right things. Examples here would be cross-functional project teams or strategic decisions.

3) feedback meetings – ideally these are 1:1 but sometimes managers have to resolve tension so these could be a little larger

It’s also important to cultivate a culture of respect.

(despite being Evernote) we usually have no device meetings – not because it’s mandated but because people come with engaging agendas about interesting issues. I think that should be the standard too. If a meeting isn’t earning your attention, it’s probably not the most important thing to be doing then and you should go do the thing that’s most important.

The concept of a meeting having to earn your attention isn’t a typical one, but maybe it should be. If you’re bored in a meeting, perhaps it’s because the meeting isn’t relevant to what you actually do and your time would be better spent working.

[clickToTweet tweet=”If a meeting isn’t earning your attention, it’s probably not the most important thing to be doing then and you should go do the thing that’s most important” explains @EverMalc of @Evernote. ” quote=”If a meeting isn’t earning your attention, it’s probably not the most important thing to be doing then and you should go do the thing that’s most important.” theme=”style3″]

Kickstarter: Jon Chang, Digital Marketing Director

Jon Chang, Digital Marketing Director at Kickstarter knows how to avoid meeting derailment and to keep everyone on the same page and following the agenda.

Tangents often happen when meetings aren’t data-driven and data-focused. Getting people out of the mentality that large impact decisions can be purely anchored to “I feel” or “I think” statements requires a thorough understanding of the data. Instead, we try to focus those large impact decisions on “the data demonstrates” and “based on the data-driven insights” statements… stakeholders have specific windows of time to provide comments in documents before and after meetings. It really helps get everyone on the same page and agenda. Additionally, simply writing the agenda on the board or screen helps.

He also knows that trust and respect are critical components for a marketing team (or any team) to work together effectively and shares Kickstarter’s process for ensuring both.

We’re very thoughtful about our hiring process, making sure we’re hiring experts in their fields who we trust and respect.

[clickToTweet tweet=”We’re very thoughtful about our hiring process, making sure we’re hiring experts in their fields who we trust and respect” explains @changahroo of @kickstarter .” quote=”We’re very thoughtful about our hiring process, making sure we’re hiring experts in their fields who we trust and respect.” theme=”style3″]

Doist (Todoist & Twist): Brenna Loury, Head of Marketing

Being a fully remote team doesn’t make running meetings easier. If anything, it’s harder to coordinate across time zones, but as Brenna Loury, Head of Marketing at Doist explains, respect—demonstrated through meeting time limits and a clear agenda—is what makes their meetings run smoothly.

As far as I know (and in my experience) there aren’t any meetings at Doist that last longer than an hour. We try and ensure this limit in order to respect all of our team members – with so many time zones, it’s common for meeting times to fall into some people’s evening/night time. We try our best to be as productive as possible in the meeting in order to respect each others’ personal lives.

In fact, our general rule of thumb is that there needs to be an explicit list of items to discuss prepared beforehand so that each party knows the agenda and can properly adhere to it. Each regularly scheduled meeting has its own Todoist project with two sections: Items to discuss and Actionables, so that there is clear follow-through after the meeting concludes.

Without respect for one another on every level, your company will not succeed, no matter where you’re all located.

If there’s not a culture of respect in your meetings, is there a culture of respect in your company as a whole? I’d venture to say that if the answer is no to the first question, it is no to the second as well.

Disrespecting your team’s time and attention with unproductive meetings is, I believe, an easy way to sow resentment. Everyone’s time is extremely limited and when it becomes hijacked by inefficient and irrelevant meetings, bitterness and annoyance ensues.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Disrespecting your team’s time and attention with unproductive meetings is, I believe, an easy way to sow resentment” explains @brennakL of @Doist .” quote=”Disrespecting your team’s time and attention with unproductive meetings is, I believe, an easy way to sow resentment.” theme=”style3″]

Drift: Matt Vazquez, Conversational Marketing Manager

To avoid wasting time at meetings, Matt Vazquez, Conversational Marketing Manager at Drift, ends them as soon as the goal is reached.

We try to end meetings as soon as the purpose of the meeting has been accomplished, the upper limit being 30 minutes. The only exception to this rule is the company-wide meeting that wraps up the week on Fridays. That one runs a bit longer because it is more informal and acts as a mini celebration of what was accomplished that week.

30 minutes might not seem like enough time to accomplish big goals in a meeting, but if no one is distracted, it’s amazing what can be done in 30 minutes or less.

Leaders at Drift have established a set of standards around meetings. For example, no laptop and cellphone usage is tolerated during meetings. Leaders demonstrate this in front of new hires on their first day, which helps the culture stick.

[clickToTweet tweet=”We try to end meetings as soon as the purpose of the meeting has been accomplished, the upper limit being 30 minutes” explains @QuezSays of @Drift .” quote=”We try to end meetings as soon as the purpose of the meeting has been accomplished, the upper limit being 30 minutes.” theme=”style3″]

MindMeister (& MeisterTask): Raphaela Brandner, Marketing Manager

What do you do if you’re not sure if that a person can contribute to the meeting? In that case, use Rafaela Bradner, Marketing Manager at MindMeister and MeisterTask’s strategy:

At MeisterLabs we’re always mindful about other people’s time, so I generally don’t invite people to meetings unless I’m sure they have something valuable to contribute. If I’m unsure, I send them the meeting agenda and simply ask whether or not they think they have something important to add. Inviting people just do keep them in the loop is not necessary as we can easily share the meeting minutes with them afterwards.

Taking great meeting minutes (the record of actions and decisions) and having a clear agenda are the keys to MeisterLab’s effective meeting strategy.

The bigger the proposed change or project, the harder it is generally to keep people on track. I always prepare a meeting agenda which is projected onto the big screen during the meeting, and this visual reminder definitely helps. If we do get too far off topic, I will often put an end to the discussion by saying that we can schedule a separate meeting to talk about these issues, and that it’s time to move on to the next item.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Inviting people just do keep them in the loop is not necessary as we can easily share the meeting minutes with them afterwards” explains @RaphieBr of @MeisterTask .” quote=”Inviting people just do keep them in the loop is not necessary as we can easily share the meeting minutes with them afterwards.” theme=”style3″]

HelloSign: Tiffaney Fox Quintana, VP, Marketing

In a culture of “let’s just call a meeting”, Tiffany Fox Quintana, VP of Marketing at HelloSign’s stands apart. As she explains of her meeting strategy:

before scheduling a meeting, I think it is also important to ask whether or not this task can be accomplished through an email.  If the information being share or the actions that need to take place don’t require debate, discussion, or active decision-making during the meeting, the meeting could potentially be condensed to an email and save everyone time.

When a meeting is the best way to make progress on a marketing project, she’s careful to keep the meeting on track.

Tangents can take off from just about anything and we can start going down a rabbit hole fast depending on what is top of mind.  As a company, we have a focus on keeping things on schedule, so to pull things back we generally do a time check and relate that back to what we still need to accomplish in the meeting.  If the debate is important, we can suggest finding another time to discuss it further.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Before scheduling a meeting, I think it is also important to ask whether or not this task can be accomplished through an email” explains @FoxyQ of @HelloSign .” quote=”Before scheduling a meeting, I think it is also important to ask whether or not this task can be accomplished through an email.” theme=”style3″]

Buffer: Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing

Meetings are like gases, expanding to fill their containers. So goes the thinking of Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer when he explains how he times his meetings.

I believe that a meeting expands to fill the time you have, so I try to keep things purposefully brief, no more than 30 minutes. If the agenda feels like it’s bigger than 30 minutes, then we try to break it into smaller pieces or multiple chats. Often times, we’ll find that not everyone needs to be present for all the topics, and then those specific topics are addressed in breakout chats with a smaller group.

And that preparation for a meeting doesn’t need to be done weeks in advance in order to get everyone on the same page.

If it’s a new topic, I’ll write up some notes 24 hours beforehand and share with all involved. Typically those notes will include an objective for the meeting so that everyone is clear.

Ideally there won’t be any background needed in the meeting itself and we can get right into it. I’ve found that the team is pretty well-versed on marketing topics (we’re a smaller team of 70), so I’m lucky that I don’t end up prepping too often.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I believe that a meeting expands to fill the time you have, so I try to keep things purposefully brief, no more than 30 minutes” explains @kevanlee of @Buffer .”  quote=”I believe that a meeting expands to fill the time you have, so I try to keep things purposefully brief, no more than 30 minutes.” theme=”style3″]

g, and this visual reminder definitely helps. If we do get too far off topic, I will often put an end to the discussion by saying that we can schedule a separate meeting to talk about these issues, and that it’s time to move on to the next item.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Inviting people just do keep them in the loop is not necessary as we can easily share the meeting minutes with them afterwards” explains @RaphieBr of @MeisterTask .” quote=”Inviting people just do keep them in the loop is not necessary as we can easily share the meeting minutes with them afterwards.” theme=”style3″]

PinkSquare: Ben Latham, VP, Marketing

As PinkSquare has offices spread across Europe and the Americas,  we’re in remote meetings all day. Both with other offices and with clients. Working with 3d animation and the production of marketing videos involves a lot of communication and coordination. Most of our clients are from the industrial, construction or consumer product sectors and manufacture physical and very often technical products. Understanding these products often take numerous meetings between our production team and the clients. 

Before scheduling a meeting or a screen share session we always make sure we are up to date on their video marketing strategy, so as to best understand their needs and to make the session as productive as possible. We generally start the meeting by going through their product and to understand how it adds value to their customers. Then we collaborate by sharing a screen and going through the product demo video from beginning to end.

Notes are taken in a collaborative format and shared after the meeting in a follow up mail making sure that clients understand the next steps and the PinkSquare production process overall. 

PowerPoint is a great app and makes beautiful presentations which are ideal for when you’re speaking at a conference or trying to showcase your offerings to a potential client.  But is it amazing for your meetings? No, and using it could be adding extra work for both you and your meeting participants. Despite being the most commonly used meeting presentation software, there are 5 significant flaws in the way PowerPoint functions in a meeting.

1. Agenda on First or Second Page

While it’s great that PowerPoint allows you to put your meeting agenda up on the screen for everyone to see, it’s stuck on the first or second page of your slides and everyone has forgotten what’s on it just a few minutes later. It’s too hard to go back to reference during the meeting and you can bet that someone, at some point during your meeting, is sitting there wondering how many more agenda items are left before the meeting ends.

2. No Making On-The-Fly Notes of Actions and Decisions

PowerPoint simply doesn’t have the capability to easily record actions and decisions during your meeting. In order to record anything during a meeting you have two options: to exit the PowerPoint presentation and type them somewhere or to write them out by hand. Typing them elsewhere can leave you looking less prepared and professional than you would like. Taking them by hand forces you to type them up later. Both options entail emailing them to your meeting participants, along with notes regarding the context, which hopefully you remember correctly, despite juggling several things at the same time in the meeting. That is a lot of extra work just to record the actions and decisions from the meeting in a way that makes them easy to reference.

3. Flexibility

PowerPoint was built for presentations, which are usually one way communication and follow a set flow going from slide to slide. This is fine in a presentation, but in a meeting, this set flow doesn’t leave much flexibility. You have little to no flexibility in terms of skipping around or having things prepared which you may or may not need to share, depending on how the meeting is going. Even in a meeting with an agenda you might need some flexibility. For example, team meetings and project meetings are generally not as rigid and predictable as the format of a PowerPoint dictates.

4. It’s Time-Consuming to Prepare

PowerPoint presentations can be beautiful but they can also take a lot of time to prepare. If you want content from files or links, you have to spend the time to get it all converted and cropped and aligned into a PowerPoint. The process is very time-intensive but you can’t just add the file or show an image. You have to think about using the right fonts, colors, etc and ensuring your images and text look just right.  Every step of this process takes time if you want it to look good, and if you don’t, you probably aren’t bothering with a PowerPoint.

[clickToTweet tweet=”No wonder preparing a meeting has been so frustrating. I’ve been using PowerPoint, which a presentation tool. Great software but used incorrectly. Here’s why.” quote=”PowerPoint is great for presentations, but not for conversations which is what a meeting should be. ” theme=”style3″]

5. Sharing Afterwards Is All or Nothing

With PowerPoint, you have the option of sharing the whole presentation or nothing at all. You can’t selectively send out the information most relevant to the point you’re referencing without deleting slides and saving this as a new file to send out. Instead, you get to send out a note along the lines of “As you can see from the notes on Slide 5…” which forces anyone you’re emailing to download the entire presentation, open up slide 5 and look at your notes. What a waste of time. And it’s worse if there was a decision reached in the meeting which is counter to part of your presentation. There is very little as awkward as several slides with notes of “ignore this” or “decided against this due to…” Sometimes you can take those slides out but sometimes doing so will mean revamping the whole slide deck, which is neither enjoyable nor a good use of your time.

PowerPoint is great for presentations, but are not quite perfect for conversations, which is what most meetings are. If you’ve prepared for and attended a number of meetings, you’ve likely struggled with some of the limitations of using PowerPoint to run a  meeting. Maybe it’s time to keep it just for presentations.

 

Think back to when you signed your employment contract with your current company. It listed out the things you needed to do in order to fulfill your role with the company and included specific tasks and deliverables. Meetings were most likely not on that list, yet you seem to be attending more of them every year and you’re not alone. There are 25 million meetings every single day in the USA alone.

No matter which industry you work in, your company is averaging spending 15% of it’s collective employee time in unproductive meetings. Think about all the things you, and everyone else in your company, could be doing with that time instead. A company pays each employee either a specified hourly rate or a salary, with the expectation the employee will work a certain amount of time and produce a certain amount of output. And the average company is wasting 15% of that paid time by requiring their employees attend unproductive meetings. If that time were instead freed up for the employee to work on their actual job, just imagine of the quality and quantity of work they could deliver. If an employee is having a hard time fulfilling the expectations of his position, unproductive meetings could be why and just think how much more an employee who is able to do their job could do with those extra hours every single week. These wasted hours are a major cost for any company and a burden for every employee.

[clickToTweet tweet=”15% of employee time is wasted in meetings. @Pinstriped has a simple solution to fix that” quote=”15% of employee time is wasted in meetings. @Pinstriped has a simple solution to fix that” theme=”style6″]

Generally when a company is spending or investing a large sum of money, there is someone who is directly responsible for it and who ensures there is a return. A marketing manager takes responsibility for a company’s marketing budget. An office manager is usually responsible for office supplies. Someone is managing the cost of printer paper and pens but most companies squander away their employees valuable time without any oversight.

To do some very simplified math, if an employee is earning $36/hour and works 40 hours/week for 52 weeks each year, they earn $75,000/year. If 15% of their time is wasted in unproductive meetings, that’s $11,250 of wasted investment. And meetings are never just one employee. Fifty employees at the same pay grade in an unproductive meetings waste $562,500/year. And that is assuming your average employee earns just $75,000/year. Developers and highly skilled employees command a much higher average salary. Having a Meeting Officer who is responsible for such a sizable investment only makes sense.

[clickToTweet tweet=”A Meeting Officer could save your company six figures a year. @Pinstriped explains how” quote=”A Meeting Officer could save your company six figures a year. @Pinstriped explains how” theme=”style6″]

That’s all well and good, you say, but what would a Meeting Officer actually do to ensure the company is getting the most bang for its buck when investing so much of its employees time into meetings? It would depend on your company but your Meeting Officer could start by defining standards for the companies meetings, increasing awareness and raising expectations. They should find ways to measure employee performance within this area, and educate employees that need support. Your Meeting Officer could select software and services to help the employees, come up with a way to track overall improvement (putting actual numbers on cost savings and productivity gains), and so on. Anything related to meetings at your company would be under their job description.

Most people simply accept meetings as a fact-of-life, as part of the process of doing the work they do. To most, meetings are a necessary evil, like being at the office by a certain time or working on a team with someone you don’t particularly like. It’s simply accepted that meetings have and always will be a part of the job and a waste of someone’s time.

Stop thinking of meetings as just a necessary cost.

Meetings aren’t the core of any business (except maybe ours) and meeting attendance is rarely in anyone’s employment contract. There is always something else you could be doing that is part of your core job description. Your job title might be almost anything but it probably isn’t “/meeting attendee”.

The time you’re spending in a meeting is time you’re taking away from doing the work the company hired you to do, which means you shouldn’t be attending just any meeting someone thinks to invite you to join. There are situations and jobs in which holding a meeting is necessary, but more often not, that isn’t the case when a meeting is called.

Start thinking of meetings as investments.

Every half hour spent in a meeting is a half hour spent not doing the job you were hired to do. Which means any meeting you attend should be one where your attendance has an obvious impact. Your time is being invested in the meeting and there should be a reason for that investment.

Viewing meetings as investments rather than unavoidable costs raises expectations – of the meeting organizer, of the meeting attendees and of the meeting itself. Instead of being an ineffective use of time, meetings are objective-driven and those objectives are clearly defined.  There are many alternatives for information dissemination and planning. You could send an email, get on a group call (which tends to be shorter than a meeting), walk over to another colleagues desk, etc. Meetings force people to take time away from their official job for an extended period of time and to interrupt the flow of their work. When that happens, it should be because their attendance is adding more value than if they were focused on “regular” work.

Always ask “what’s the return?”

If you think of a meeting as an investment and ask “what’s the return?”, you’ll approach each meeting with a purpose and clear expectations. Before you schedule the meeting, you’ll know what you’re hoping the end result will be. Before inviting someone, you know what their contribution to the meeting will be. Walking out of the meeting, you’ll be sure to have the next steps planned out because the best time to take action is immediately, even if it’s just a small step.

In treating each and every meeting as an investment instead of just the cost of doing business, you’ll have clear and raised expectations for the meeting. This, in turn, is more likely to produce a measurable return. You’ll also have more attentive meeting participants and, most likely, fewer meetings to attend.

You hand over some money in a coffee shop, you get a caffeine fix. You make the downpayment on a car, you get a car. You put in the work building a Lego Death Star, you get a Lego Death Star. For most things in life, when you put in the work, you expect some kind of return. It doesn’t have to be big, but most people like to see a tangible result of the effort they put in or the price they pay. The coffee, the car, the Lego Death Star, they’re instantly gratifying because you have them and can see them.

But this kind of return, call it a reward if you like, isn’t happening in our meetings. If it was, our meetings would be gratifying. With a meeting, even if it goes well, the result is rarely that satisfying. It often feels like all we get is more work.

Gratification from intangible rewards

If there’s no tangible return, then how do we get that same feeling of gratification from our meetings? It starts with perspective. Go into your next meeting with the mindset that you’re in there to achieve something, and you’re already pointing in the right direction.

There are things in life which don’t have a tangible return, but which are still gratifying, like running a marathon or checking off the last of 27 tasks at the end of a busy work day. With meetings, as with marathons and checklists, the instant gratification comes from the sense of achievement.

Make the objective your objective

A clearly defined goal is essential for capturing that sense of achievement. Imagine running a marathon with no idea of where the finish line was. Set an achievable objective for your meeting. Something that’s:

  • Specific
  • Purposeful, and
  • Timely

 

Make it so that success is clearly and easily measurable. Did we meet the objective? Yes or no? And remember, that everyone you invite to a meeting needs to know what the objective is, and what their role is in helping the group to reach it.

It is possible to get instant gratification from a meeting, you just have to make sure you plan it right. And remember to thank people, to celebrate if it’s a big deal. A simple “great meeting, thanks guys” or “well done, everyone” goes a long way.

In a world obsessed with productivity and innovation, why are so many of us still willing to sit through poorly planned, badly executed, irrelevant meetings? Why do we accept pouring precious time down the drain, in meetings with no clear objectives, all while knowing that none of the key points raised will be capitalized on?

A good meeting, that is to say, one which involves the right people, and where the objective is clear and met, can be a great thing.

But think about the meetings you’ve been in over the past six months. How many were honestly worth your time? With the rise in popularity of apps and technologies in almost every aspect of worklife , it seems ludicrous that many of us still can’t organize effective, relevant meetings. So why is that?

A Sense of Professional Obligation

One big reason why we accept bad meetings, is this pervasive sense of professional obligation. When a meeting is called, unless you’re specifically excluded from it, you’re expected to go.

It’s as though the calling of a meeting turns on a motor in your head, one which autopilots you into the meeting room, where you sit, thinking about all the other places you’d rather be. That’s a big problem. If you’re sitting in a meeting and you’re thinking about being somewhere else, then either:

  • You’re in the wrong job, or
  • This meeting is not relevant to you

 

What Are You Afraid Of?

Think about saying, ‘This meeting isn’t relevant to the work I’m doing. I honestly don’t think I have anything to contribute .’ Feels good, doesn’t it? But most people won’t say it, because something gets in the way:

Fear of missing out
This will mean different things to different people, but consider how many meetings you’ve been to, where you went because you did not know what the objective was. If you don’t know exactly what the meeting is about, and what the objective of it is, how can you make a convincing case for not going to it?

In addition, not knowing what the objective of the meeting is, makes it impossible to know whether important stuff will be decided over your head, on your behalf, or otherwise without your knowledge.

Fear of reprisal
Let’s say that you do know what the meeting is about, and you’ve decided that it’s not relevant to you. Many people still go, because they fear losing face with their colleagues (does s/he think s/he’s more important than us?) or risk getting into trouble with their superiors.

Lack of an accommodating culture
The company’s culture is outdated. When a meeting is called, it is not ok, regardless of relevancy, to say that you’re not attending. This is something which should be challenged.

Would You Keep Going to Poor Dinner Parties?

If you showed up to a friend’s dinner party once, and they’d forgotten the music or the drinks, you’d be disappointed. If it happened a second time, or a third, you’d start declining their invitations, you might even tell them, ‘Hey, if we’re going to do this, we ought to do it right. Can I help you?’

With meetings, though, for years we’ve been beaten down with boredom and bureaucracy. Nobody says anything — not in a way that changes things — about how poorly planned or irrelevant said meeting was. We take bad meetings like we take disgusting medicine, only bad meetings do more harm than good, and why? Because we’re under-informed or afraid of office politics?

It’s time that we starting having more respect for ourselves, and more respect for our colleagues, by holding meetings which reflect the standards upheld in almost every other aspect of business.