If you’re like me you spend an inordinate amount of your work day in meetings. So much of what we do involves working with others that it’s hard to avoid them. Yet, so many meetings are true wastes of our precious time. Many meetings unfortunately follow an all to typical pattern of behavior which I outlined in a previous post – The Anatomy of a Meeting. Face it, whether we like it or not meetings are a fact of the work world that we can’t avoid.
As I’ve been doing this schtick now for more than…well, a lot longer than I care to admit, I’ve definitely attended my share of meetings. And, there’s one thing that’s clear, if you are going to schedule a meeting and invite me to it, you best follow a few simple rules. Or else, there’s a really good chance I’m going to punch you in the face.
OK, while I’d really like to have any excuse to punch George in the face for poor meeting behavior, it might be a career limiting move. But seriously, without some structure meetings get out of control and really are highly unproductive or even a complete waste of time.
The best way to ensure that we all get along and no one leaves a meeting with a broken nose is to follow these simple rules.
Schedule it in advance
If you think you can schedule a meeting to start within the next hour or so, it had better be a “babies are dying” emergency or I’d better be getting a promotion and an office with an actual door. Otherwise, look toward tomorrow or a later day.
Include an agenda
When you send out the meeting invite you’d better include an agenda. That way, based on the topics, I can determine if I really need to attend. If the subject is outside of my wheelhouse and has nothing to do with me, I’m not attending.
Also, no agenda…no attend.
Always start on time
Short of the CEO stopping you in the hallway on the way to the meeting, you best start it on time. Meetings that start late tend to end late. If they end late, you and I will be late to our next meeting. Low and behold the cycle perpetuates itself. In college there was the “rule” that if after 15 minutes the professor didn’t show you could leave. That’s generous. I’ll give you 5 minutes, then hasta la vista…baby.
Always end on time
Unfortunately, many days are back to back to back meetings. So, I’m likely running (sometimes literally) from your meeting to the next. So, regardless of how much you still have to cover on the agenda, end on time, because guess what? I’m leaving anyway.
Your meeting? You take notes
If you’ve called the meeting, you take notes. Take down action items and owners. And, send them out ASAP after the meeting. And, include them in the next related meeting invite.
Look, if you’ve taken good notes and sent them out in the agenda you don’t need to spend the first 15 minutes of the meeting restating everything we discussed last time. Shut the heck up and let’s move on to new business.
Use the conference bridge properly
Many meetings require a conference bridge be setup for remote workers. If you need one, send it out in the meeting invite. Start or open the bridge at least a few minutes early.
Don’t feel the need to ask, “Hi, who just joined?” every time the freaking thing “dings” when someone enters the conference. Look, each time you do that we spend a few precious minutes hearing “hey Tom, how are you” and freaking Tom feeling the need to actually answer! Also, some people ask the ”Hi, who just joined?” question to make sure no unauthorized people join the call.
I’ve been in the work world for, well, a lot longer than I care to admit, and I’ve NEVER been on a call where some competitor happened to get the bridge number and join up in the call!
If you’ve sent the meeting invite with the agenda and notes, there’s no freaking reason to bring paper copies of this stuff to the meeting and hand out to everyone…every…time. It never ceases to amaze me how some people (yes, I’m looking at you George) feel the need to print out everything. Hello! We all bring our laptop, iPad, smartphone to the meeting anyway…we have the material.
It seems more and more meetings are being scheduled during the lunch hour these days. Yes, I know for most of us, there is no real “lunch hour” however, food is pretty important to me and others.
First…don’t do it. the lunch hour should be left open.
But, if you must schedule a meeting over the 12-1 hour you’d best be serving food. It doesn’t have to be filet mignon, but you should provide something edible.
Also, cookies. Serve cookies.
Collaboration means listening
The whole point of meetings and collaborating is to get other people’s opinions and knowledge. So, please
George meeting organizer, stop talking for just a few minutes and listen to what others have to say.
These are just a handful of the things I think should be rules in all of our meetings. Oh sure there’s probably many, many others, but I don’t want to inundate you just now. We’ve gotta ease into this meeting discipline thing.
But, if you want to avoid having a face like a 1970′s NHL player, I suggest taking these into advisement.
So, what meeting rules do you have?
P.S. Maybe a future post will involve the Rules for Meeting Attendees…