A Way To Make Meetings Not Suck?

Communication & relationships — Sean Bonner @ 7:20 pm
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My friend Michael Pusateri made this fantastic illustration which explains why meetings suck. I find that by and large they are massive wastes of time and generally do more harm than good. Because of this I avoid them at all costs. Sometimes they are unavoidable and if you must go to one, then it’s a good idea to figure out how to make the most of it. The biggest problems with them is that, as illustrated in the graphic above, so much time is wasted waiting for people and chatting about things not relating to the meeting.

I just came across this article called How To Run A Meeting Like Google which dives into Marissa Mayer’s 70+ meeting a week schedule which I found super interesting. Most of the extremely problematic meetings I have been to were of the longer “everyone show up at X time and we’ll talk” variety, where as the shorter “here are the three points we need to cover, we have 15 minutes to do it” ones actually work out OK. (With Crash Space we have a weekly meeting on Tuesday night and we try to keep it under 30 minutes.) The rules laid out in this make a lot of sense, briefly they are:

  1. Set a firm agenda.
  2. Assign a note taker.
  3. Carve out micro meetings.
  4. Hold office hours.
  5. Discourage politics, use data.
  6. Stick to the clock.

Read the article for more details on each of those but I can attest that a firm agenda keeps things on point, and using “office hours” as a place to move “just wanted to chat” kind of things out of meetings can do wonders for shit actually getting done. For me I’d also add into this to defer to shorter meetings rather than longer – when people are presented with an hour or 2 hour meeting they walk in knowing it’s going to drag and usually end up trying to find things to fill the time which wastes everyone elses. If a meeting is 15-30 minutes tops and everyone knows what needs to get done it’s more like a race and people can get back to their own lives quicker.

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2 Comments »

  1. At Technorati we always had stand-ups. No sitting tended to keep meetings on point and under 10 minutes. Although looking at how we turned out maybe we should have taken a chair sometimes ;-) But honestly it really made for much better “get shit done” meetings and reduced chatter.

    Comment by Jason DeFillippo — January 11, 2010 @ 8:08 pm
  2. I can also attest that the firm meeting agenda is key. We actually had a conversation exactly like this earlier this month at Hive13 (the Cincinnati hackerspace) about the fact that we need to have the meeting every week, but we want to make it quick, painless, and effective. Have an agenda and take minutes. Those are two things I’ve found to be important.

    Take care of business and let people get on with the hacking!

    Comment by Dave Menninger — January 22, 2010 @ 3:45 am

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