Saturday, July 23, 2011


Meetings. Best I can tell, I have not posted on this topic before which seems odd since it is such an obsession of mine. Perhaps it is only a recent one born from wiling away much of each day when I was in Gabon in meetings. We had a meeting the other day on a personnel and time-sheet thing that was as exciting as it sounds. The real end result of that event was a not-quite-soapbox moment for me at dinner explaining why it was an ineffective use of everyone's time. I am oddly passionate about this subject and know the many shapes a meeting will try to take whether it be a traditional meeting, morning meeting, status report, conference call, online web conference, training courses, and all manner of presentations. Yes, presentations are a type of meeting. It pretends not to be, but it is.

Nothing here will be shocking or ground-breaking. It is entirely possible I heard much of this during some training material I was once forced to sit through, through I do not remember so that goes to show how effective the material might have been. Regardless, just to have a chance at an effective meeting, these things should be noted:
* Purpose/Objective - Like anything else done in business, a meeting must have a purpose. It should be something that the initiator or leader of the event can state in a clear and concise manner. No purpose means no reason for a meeting. All subsequent points can be easily connected back to this first point.
* Pre/post-work - Meetings are infinitely more productive if participants are told what to have ready prior to the meeting. And then the long-term effectiveness is greatly enhanced by post-meeting work and follow-up.
* Time - The shorter the better. Anything over an hour is rarely effective and really 30 minutes is all most people can handle in a single sitting.
* Energy/Enthusiasm - Especially true for traditional presentations, but any meeting leader or presenter needs to be enthusiastic. If you're not enthusiastic, then your audience and other attendees will instantly ask themselves why should they care if you yourself are just going through the motions?

I have given a lot of feedback to people who need to make internal (and to a lesser extent external) presentations. This has mostly been for younger engineers and supervisors presenting internally for projects and promotion related things. The first thing I always challenge people on is making everything they say contribute to the objective of their presentation. Don't waste words, don't lose your audience, don't lose focus. What is the purpose and how will you accomplish that objective?


hotair said...

You nailed it on your last couple sentences. Majority of meetings are useless. The boss calls the meeting for the meeting sake. Others like to whine at the meetings and contribute nothing. That's what our politicians are doing at best. Tell them “KISSA” when it is out of hand.

Buickguy said...

In a meeting environment, like with much of life, "Less Is More."