Are we doomed to ineffective and boring meetings?

Did you ever wonder during recruitment why more and more candidates are asking question: “How much time you spend on meetings?” Meetings became natural element of corporate life – and often most annoying one. They are usually boring and ineffective – developers hate them. Are we doomed to live in the world of such meetings? Of course not, but the world ain’t gonna change the way how meetings are run, we must do it. There are couple of ideas and tips that can help us improve meeting’s culture.

First of all whenever short meeting has tendency to take more time that it should maybe it’s worth considering a standing version of it? Some evidence has been published that this will not only reduce meeting time but is also very healthy, as seating nowadays is often recognized as the “new smoking” – and we almost always seat during meetings. Don’t seat during first 20-30 minutes of every meeting and see what happens!.

Next thing – do you believe in meeting agenda? Well you should. My personal experience shows that having agenda allows participant to prepare for the meeting. Agenda makes sure that people are focused and non-conclusive discussions are limited during the meeting. People choosing not to come to meeting with clear agenda are simply saying: “whatever decision is made I’m ok with it”. Without agenda you may face some difficulties knowing if someone is missing because he misunderstood reasons why the meeting is held. Please don’t attend meetings without clear agenda! – challenge organizer to create agenda, offer your help in building one. Maybe this small step makes following meetings better prepared and run. Along with the agenda we must communicate clear and measurable goal of the meeting – otherwise how would we know that meeting achieved what was planned? Don’t be afraid to challenge meeting goal f.e. “let’s talk about X” – how are we measure that we’ve talked about “X”?

Who said that meeting during work time must be done inside the office building? Go outside, grab something to eat or just enjoy nice espresso. Do you want open-minded ideas that go beyond standard thinking?, do you want to be honest and build trust?,  is team building something that you want to incorporate right after the meeting? Outside time may help. I do agree that this may be difficult in case when participants are not colocated, but I bet it’s not always the case. Changing surroundings may help participants to feel more comfortable, mind can explore different ideas, honesty and openness seems to be more straightforward. Another extension of that type of meeting is “walking meeting” which I have mentioned in my previous post. (also mentioning how food, feasible extension of outside gatherings, can boost meeting’s creativity and productivity)

Often bored during meetings? New gamification trend is coming to rescue! The idea is very simple, it’s all about using games in non-game contexts. Gamification has been successfully used in many non-game contexts (from customer engagement, motivation, goal tracking to promoting literacy or U.S. army recuritment) Why we shouldn’t try it for meeting which is perfect example of non-game context? Use games to make meeting more attractive and encourage active participation. There are some simple games helping to increase attendance/networking/social-engagement. More sophisticated ones are used for specific purpose – f.e. Meddlers allows players to visualize and discuss organizational structure.

Do you need to attend every meeting you’re invited to? Probably no. Be brave and decline invitations with simple reason, “reached limit of meetings this week” or “no-meetings-day”. Maybe this give organizers a clue that meeting too often or with too many people is not the way forward. Also you will limit your task switching and improve efficiency. No-Meeting-Day is a really nice idea which is more feasible to do than you think – just try! Do you remember a day without meetings? – it can be really productive.

Hopefully you find some of above ideas useful and they help you improve meeting culture in your company. Who knows, maybe one day asked by candidate you will say: “Our meetings are efficient and great fun, there is right amount of them and only when really needed – they are part of our outstanding organization culture and we love them”.

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