For those of you who don’t know what meeting hell looks like – first of all, congratulations on winning at life, secondly, let me paint a picture.
Your manager walks by and invites you to your fifth impromptu meeting of the day. You sit in the meeting waiting for 10 minutes so the guys from finance can finish their unrelated conversation…
You’re not quite sure who’s leading the meeting, but eventually someone pipes up. The ‘quick catch up’ turns into the longest meeting of your life. There are so many tangents and unrelated ideas being thrown around you’ve forgotten who you are and why you’re in this meeting.
The meeting ends and you’re not entirely sure what needs actioning or what the resolution was. You go back to your desk and question your life choices.
OK, I’m being a little dramatic – but you get my point, right?
Meetings can be time-sucks, but they can also be reeeeeally helpful. If you do them right. So today I thought I would note a few tips to get the most out of meetings, and preferably, how to avoid meeting hell.
Do you need the meeting?
Some companies just love a bloody meeting, and you can end up spending hours discussing something that may just have needed an email. If you’re the one planning the meeting, ask yourself if it needs discussion.
If you’ve been invited to come and you’re strapped for time – send someone else from your team or simply say no. You don’t have to attend all the meetings (I know, mind = blown).
Are the right people attending?
When you know what the meeting is about and who’s attending, take another look. Does everyone on that list need to attend? Is there anyone not attending who’s insight could be valuable?
How long will the meeting last?
Usually there’s good intention behind saying a meeting will be ‘30 minutes’ but if you’re holding the meeting and know there’s a lot to go over, try and be realistic and don’t shy away from the fact that it may take a while. And stock up on pastries.
What is the ideal outcome of the meeting?
If you’re holding the meeting, make sure everyone knows what you want to get out of the meeting – whether that’s action points, ideas or just making decisions. If you’re not holding the meeting, ask whoever is holding it what they want to achieve with the meeting.
OK, once those questions have been done and dusted, it’s time to keep the meeting productive.
Going off on a tangent can totally derail a meeting. Of course, you can’t control what people say or how the conversation goes, but you can gently steer the conversation back. Wait for a pause in the tangent and ask if this can be discussed another time or simply bring up the next topic.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of off-topic banter, but remember people are giving you their time, so keep it brief and get back on topic.
Summarise what needs to be done
At the end of meetings I find it helpful, whether I’m holding them or attending them, to give a summary of what needs to be done. This ensures a) I know what I need to do and b) that everyone else in the room knows what they need to do. This gives ample opportunity for any miscommunications to get cleared up.
Send a damn follow-up email
If I’m holding a meeting at work, I always send a follow up email. Firstly to thank people for giving me their time and secondly to put the verbal summary down on paper. This gives everyone something to refer back to while giving introverts a chance to digest the meeting and respond via email if they want.
Wow, who knew I had so many thoughts on meetings huh? How do you navigate meetings at work? Any other career/work related woes you would like to read about here?
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