Dec 21, 2008
photo credit: bareknuckleyellow
I worked with government for three years before starting a career in IT. My work then mostly involved managing meetings among officials from different agencies. And we technical staff regularly met among ourselves, too.
What can I say about meetings? Most of the time, they are utterly useless. People often bicker among themselves. Attendees would point fingers at who should be doing what. People would grandstand with what they knew, and with what they wanted.
In short, most of the time we did not get to resolve anything. And if we ever did, we ended up too tired to properly record any agreements and resolutions for future action. Most meetings end up with all talk and no action.
Most big groups have a designated secretary or secretariat who would prepare meeting agenda, prepare schedules, arrange for the actual meeting, and prepare the record or minutes of the proceedings so nobody would forget what happened. The ideal scenario is that a meeting will discuss certain key points and arrive at certain actionable decisions.
These days, I’m part of several organizations that hold regular meetings. Most of these still don’t get the essence of a meeting, and people still use meetings as an excuse to spend useless time bickering over small things.
My idea of a productive meeting is one that lasts only 30 minutes, and where parties involved actually get to act on something. Meetings should be kept short, simple and straight-to-the-point.
Each attendee should come on time to avoid wasting the other peoples’ time and to prevent others from dilly-dallying. If you can’t come on time for a meeting, then you might as well re-schedule, or if the delay is really unavoidable (and reasonably short, anyway), then please call or text ahead.
Have an agenda and stick to it. Meetings should have a purpose, and this should be included in the agenda. It’s usually best to have only a few items, to make sure you get to focus on what really needs to be discussed or done.
Summarize the results of a meeting at the end to make sure everyone understands the important points discussed.
Take notes and send it to everyone ASAP. To make sure no one forgets any agreements, instructions or further things to be discussed, a meeting’s minutes or notes should be sent to everyone involved as soon as possible.
Meetings can be productive, but only if used as a means to an end, rather than the end-all, be-all of an organization. Make each minute count. If you can avoid holding a meeting, and just start doing what needs to be done, then you save precious minutes (or hours) of your life doing things and being more productive.