Business meetings are the bane of our professional lives. According to The Muse, managers spent between 35 – 50% of their time in meetings. That’s a pretty significant number.
You might be saying, the answer to this is get rid of meetings. But here’s the thing. I doubt that meetings are going away. The definition of meeting is “a coming together of two or more people, by chance or arrangement.” People will still get together to accomplish stuff. That’s a meeting.
Some companies feel the way to reduce the number of meetings is to attach rules or guidelines to them. For example, companies will abolish meetings on Tuesdays. I can’t help but think they’re in essence saying, “Schedule the meeting on Wednesday.” Meaning, they really aren’t impacting the amount of time in meetings. They’re just taking one day off the meeting schedule. Or what about the organizations that mandate 10 minute meetings. Aren’t they really telling employees, “Have all the meetings you want, just make them all 10 minutes long.”
These rules or guidelines don’t fix the real issue. The way to fix our problem with business meetings is to run better meetings. Starting with the reason a meeting should be scheduled in the first place.
I’ve never heard a person complain about a meeting that was essential. Granted they might complain about the way it was conducted. I’ll save that for another post. But as a general rule, people do not complain when the reason for scheduling the meeting is legit. And they will always complain if the meeting was called and could have been handled with an email.
In my experience, there are only three reasons to hold a meeting.
1. The first reason to hold a meeting is to provide information. Those regularly scheduled department meetings are a perfect example. The purpose of those meetings is to provide information. The reason they’re so dreaded is because, when there’s nothing to convey, the meeting still happens.
Same with networking meetings. These are useful, valuable opportunities that participants should covet. Despite what someone says, those synergy calls when one person talks the entire time are not networking meetings. They’re really sales presentations.
Brainstorming meetings are another type of meeting designed to provide information. Brainstorming often gets a bad rap because people use the time to also evaluate ideas, which is contrary to the whole brainstorming concept.
2. The second reason to hold a meeting is to create a mechanism for decision making. One of the most important decision making meetings in business is strategic planning. The organization is developing their goals and direction. Other types of decision making meeting are pitch meetings, where individuals or organizations are pitching their ideas and project meetings, where groups are tasked with accomplishing a goal or task.
3. The last reason to hold a meeting is to allow for feedback and discussion. Before you ask, I do view feedback a bit different than information. Feedback is a reaction to a product or performance used to ultimately create improvement. The first type of feedback meeting that comes to mind is the focus group. Whether it’s internal or external, focus groups are completely about providing feedback.
Employee coaching meetings are another form of meeting. It can be to tell an employee they’re doing well or to share concerns. But it is a meeting. There’s also training meetings. When training is done properly, it’s about creating a safe environment where individuals can learn, practice, and receive feedback.
One of the best skills to have as a working professional is the ability to run a good business meeting. Employees who have this skill will be able to gather groups and engage their talents. The first step is knowing when to call the meeting.
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