Six simple rules to make meetings matter
You may have heard the saying, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.” But when you think about it, the camel is a marvelous beast, able to traverse miles of desert sand without hydration or sunglasses. Similarly, committed crews of professionals working together, pushing each other to think bigger and bolder, can execute exponentially amazing things. And where do these dream teams assemble? In meetings.
Done well, meetings are vehicles for big breakthroughs, communal vibes, and potent collaboration. Done badly, they feel like death by a thousand paper cuts, especially when you’re shuttling from one agenda-free, tech-challenged, leaderless confab to the next (and it’s only 2:30!!). We think meetings get a bad rap, not because people should stop getting together to work things through, but because folk aren’t making them count. If each calendar invite is one more reminder that to meet is murder, consider taking a few of our tips to get the most out of working together.
GATHER WITH PURPOSE
The goal of any meeting, from a one-on-one conversation to a standing-room-only show-and-tell, is to harness the power of collective insight. Even more than the right physical space, a good meeting demands the right mindset: active participation, clear communication, solid direction, sincere listening, and deep focus. Snacks help, too.
THINK BEFORE YOU MEET
Before you set up a meeting, ask yourself: Is this meeting really necessary? Does everyone you’re inviting have a defined role to play? Are you scheduling it at 5:30 pm on a Friday? Be careful about overscheduling your team, and avoid cavalier cancelling and the dreaded “reoccurring resched.” While the meeting is in progress, stick to your objectives and don’t let small talk or tangents take over. That said, if a topic catches fire at meeting’s end, don’t smother it for the sake of time—stoke the flames in the spirit of spontaneous creativity.
RESERVE WITH CARE
It’s the golden rule: reserve a meeting space based on the tools you’ll need and for the time you’ll require. No need to go crazy with multiscreen video conference capability for a simple status check-in. And should you need to link in Dubai, London, Sydney, Moscow, and Beijing, a) you’re very impressive and b) you may need more than a whiteboard and speakerphone to do the trick. And though technological glitches are a fact of modern life, double-check that your presentations, links, dial-ins, and other digital details are “all systems go” prior to lift off.
BE “THERE” THERE
We see you, Wanda WhatsApp. And you, too, Inspector Instagram. And don’t get us started, Señor Status Update. When you’re in a meeting, give your coworkers the attention they deserve—that is, all of it. Yes, our app-addled brains are used to dizzying amounts of micro-tasking these days, but fight the urge to check out who liked your bulldog puppy photo (answer: everyone) or to text your spouse that you feel like Thai tonight. By making a conscious effort to be present, participatory, and not preoccupied by a Scrabble triple word smackdown, you’re able to be the most valuable team member.
The more time you spend wending your way from conference room to conference room, the more intimate your knowledge of your office becomes—every square foot, every sharp turn, every sneaky route to avoid a noticeably late entrance in front of your boss’s boss. Extend this tracker’s knowledge of your office layout to visiting clients, new employees, and other guests. If someone looks lost and confused, instead of brushing by them, stop and ask if they need some assistance. Then, offer to walk them to their destination. You’ll have made a connection, and quite possibly gotten off on the right foot with your next big idea.
KEEP IT CLEAN
In these days of many, many office gatherings, it behooves us all to treat the conference room, or any shared space, like a campsite: always hike out with what you hiked in with. That means taking everything with you: from pens and presentation decks, to flash drives and foodstuffs. Even though people in the next meeting may be champing at the bit to get into their weekly status update, remember to erase any boards, push the chairs back in, and clear out.