Raise your hand if you hate meetings.
Okay, lower your hand and pretend that you’re not the nerd who just raised their hand while reading my blog and pretending to work. If I were going to make up some sort of scientific poll, I’d say that 98% of people hate meetings. In fact, if you google “I hate meetings” you get 22,800,00 results (in 0.17 seconds) on the subject. On a related note, one of the suggested searches that comes up when you enter “I hate meetings” is “Death Meetings”, which is just weird.
Most people hate meetings because many times nothing gets decided and you just end up scheduling another meeting to discuss the subject some more (hmm…maybe that’s where “death meetings” comes up, as in I’m going to actually die before something gets finalized in a meeting.)
In a recent frustrating example, I had a meeting scheduled with the proper decision makers but only one of them showed up on time. It took us about 10 minutes to track down the rest of the people, and then another 10 minutes was spent chatting about why they were late to the meeting. When we finally got to the point of the meeting (a time sensitive topic that needed to be finalized that day), they decided to call in a couple more people to ask their opinion.
Spoiler Alert: Nothing was decided at that meeting. At all. In fact, a list of additional questions was created to research before… you guessed it, scheduling another meeting to talk about it.
Are you slamming your head into your keyboard yet? Does this sound familiar?
As a marketing guru, I can honestly say that I’ve been involved in some of the most ridiculous meetings known to man. People not showing up, the office dog walking around with his ‘red rocket’ out, extremely offensive jokes, personal hygiene issues, porn popping up on the computer screen behind them — these are just some of things that people seem to think are acceptable.*
Here are some tricks that I’ve found really do help make your meetings go smoother:
Have an agenda and stick to it. Send the agenda out to the meeting attendees before the meeting so that everyone knows what to expect. If you have a decision that must be made, put that on the agenda.
Show up on time and encourage everyone else to do the same. Much like my pet peeve of people who rush through writing their emails, when you show up late to a meeting you’re letting everyone else know that you think your time is more important than theirs. Everyone in that room knows what you’re doing and just to let you know, we all think you’re an asshat.
If it is going to be a long meeting, assign someone the job of being the “dead horse beater”. Yes, it sounds gross and there is probably a better term for it, but this person’s job is super important. When the meeting just keeps going in circles without any decisions being made, this person speaks up when you’re beating the proverbial dead horse and guides the meeting back on track.
Make an action list and make sure that someone is in charge of each item on that list. It’s very easy to walk away from a meeting with a list of things that were discussed, and then throw it on your desk to have it buried within a couple hours and never thought of again. If you’re the person who called the meeting, make it a habit to create a quick list of tasks that came out of the meeting. Every single item on the list should have someone’s name next to it that’s in charge of completing that item. If there is a deadline involved, add that to the list so that everyone is clear on your expectations.
Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to say that the tips above will solve ALL your meeting dilemmas, it’s just not true. If I added up the amount of time over the past decade that I’ve spent in unproductive meetings I’d probably cry at the days/weeks/months of my life that were wasted.
However, by having a confident attitude and a clear plan, your chances of running a productive meeting are greatly increased. Of course, you could kick it up a notch like this hilarious Careerbuilder commercial: http://bit.ly/awesomecareerbuildercommercial
*Yes, I realize that you’re now hoping that I write a blog post about the time that porn popped up on someone’s computer screen while I was meeting with them. If this is really of interest, leave me a comment and I’ll write it up. Also, to those people who know me in real life, this was NOT at my current job!