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How Not To Suck At Meetings

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Originally posted 2013-10-24 09:54:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“Oh, and remember: next Friday… is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to, go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.” – Bill Lumburgh

This is another one of those “really? I seriously need to write this?” blog entries. Because I look at this, you will look at this, and think “Umm, Bob, isn’t this common sense stuff?”, but you would be surprised these days.

I’ve seen these written before, I’ve read books called “Read this before your next meeting”, but in all honesty, I like things packaged quick and easy, so I thought I would write this for you to pass around without having someone read a 300 page book…

no_suckIn the day and age of CONTENT everywhere, it seems as if everyone these days is ADD. Face to face meetings, in my opinion, are the last bastion of business. So my gift to you, is how not to suck at meetings.

1. TURN YOUR #^&#*@‘ING PHONE OFF. You will be OK if you don’t see that text from Susie for another 45 minutes. You will be fine if you don’t see the last 30 minutes from your Twitter feed. You don’t need to keep re-freshing Reddit, hoping someone upvoted your dim-witted comment on a cat picture. You can pass level 37 of Angry Birds Star Wars later.

laptopinmtg2. DON’T BRING YOUR LAPTOP. Don’t. Seriously. It will be OK. You don’t need to respond to that email now. You will be fine. They will be fine. There is nothing more rude/obnoxious in the business world than hosting a meeting, delivering decent content, and then looking at the crowd, seeing 50% of them are typing away. They accomplished nothing more than acting like they are more important than you.

3. HAVE AN AGENDA. STICK TO IT. There is nothing worse than wasting people’s time just because you wanted to have a meeting. Make sure there is a point to it. Make sure you have a concise outline. Stick to it. If someone starts to talk out of order, reel them back in, say we will get to that in “Item 6” and move on. This if nothing else, shows organization and respect for those involved.

4. KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET. There is nothing worse than a 2+ hour meeting where half of it was spent talking about the last Lizard Lick Towing episode. Keep the meeting relevant, on topic, and respect your audience’s time. I’ve been known to crack a one-liner now and then, but for the most part, keep the meeting tight and try not to deviate.

losers5. PRETEND LIKE YOU ARE PAYING ATTENTION. Bring in a notepad, look everyone in the eye that is talking. Even if you are hearing Charlie Brown’s teacher (see: wah wahh wahhhh), you are still showing respect. Take notes, even if you will never look at them again, you might actually remember something and be a contributor to your team.

6. DON’T ASK A QUESTION JUST BECAUSE YOU WANT TO ANNOUNCE THAT YOU ARE THERE. We all know this guy. He will ask a question on every national team call. Every webinar. Every training module. Every lunch and learn. Every project update meeting. Just because he wants everyone, err management, to know he is paying attention, he is there , and he is interested in whatever it is going on. You are being a brown-noser, knock it off.

7. CREATE ACTIONS ITEMS AND FOLLOW UP. So the meeting’s over. Now what? Make sure you have at least five action items. Make sure you thank everyone for coming to the meeting (if you are the organizer). Make sure you follow-up on everything you talked about. Make sure you assign tasks to those in the meeting (if necessary). Make sure the time you spent was productive.

I think that covers it, if you have any other ideas, let us know!

And go read something else!

4 Comments
  1. Tony V aka The SUIT says

    One to add, because it happens all the time, but can run counter to #2, is be prepared. Especially when running a presentation from your laptop or whatever through a projector. I can’t count how many countless minutes have been lost at the start of a meeting because the laptop and projector don’t want to make nice because it wasn’t setup first instead of the last minute.

    Another that goes with #3 is start on time. I used to wait for everyone to show up…which sometimes was 20min in. These days, I start at the top of the hour and oddly enough, people have adjusted themselves to show up more or less on time for the start so they don’t miss anything.

  2. Hugh Purcell says

    Reordering your points may eliminate or minimize the need for one or two of them:
    Building the reputation of having clear agendas,
    keeping your meetings short and sweet – long enough to cover the agenda and no longer,
    will help you accomplish no PDA’s – no cell phone, no laptops, no iAnythings…but go ahead and make it your rule,
    If a meeting has purpose, focus and is short, there is no reason for anyone needing to pretend to pay attention. Attendees: If you’re invited to a meeting, it is your responsibility to pay attention and make your time and presence valuable. You were invited for a reason. If you don’t see the reason, you should start worrying, and pay attention.

    YES: start meetings EXACTLY when they were scheduled regardless of who is not there yet. No one likes to straggle in on something already in progress. It also respects the time of those who were there and ready to go.

    Don’t discourage the brown nose too much. (Yeah, this may be me.) If I try to ask at least one question in every meeting, it is NOT to announce that I am there. It is my way of engaging in the meeting, looking for what the agenda may have to do with me, of clarifying by restating a point I want to be sure I understood. It is not quite fair both to admonish people for not paying attention and also for asking a question every meeting.

    If nothing else, the brown nose question may get The Distracted to think, “Huh? What did brown nose ask, Yo? Did I miss something while I was tweeting what a waste of time this meeting is?”

  3. David Patow says

    About #2: Anyone still taking paper notes needs to drag themselves into the 21st century. My online notes can be searched, sorted, tracked, shared and sent. I expect my co-workers to be just as nimble, otherwise how will we succeed as a team? So, get a tablet computer, and leave out the games.

    And, Tony V’s above comment about being prepared is right on. For example, if my meeting depends upon everyone reading a document beforehand, then I simply start the meeting with the question: “Has everyone read the document?” If not, I POLITELY postpose the meeting by an hour. This has a great affect on productivity and morale, because everyone is prepared and engaged at the rescheduled meeting.

  4. Elyse Lopez says

    This is wonderful

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