During this past year I have had some fun finding comics depicting why Meeting Sucks. I feel it appropriate now to spend some time explaining in words why meetings truly suck for engineers. I believe that meetings truly suck across many different jobs and disciplines.
Here are my top 5 reasons why Meetings Suck so badly and can easily be a waste of time.
Lack of interest causes Meetings to Suck
The next time you sit down to a meeting, look around and see who is actively engaged. More often then not less then half of the group is engaged and the others are doing something else. Maybe they are checking email on their phones, working on their laptops or who knows what else.
Why then are they not interested. Often because the outcome of the meeting does not effect them. Maybe they feel like they don’t have ownership to make the proper decision. Or maybe the decision has already been made and the meeting is just wastefully re-iterating something that has already been agreed upon
Unnecessary Content causes Meetings to Suck
The Monday morning sync meetings, the mid-week progress checkpoints, etc… These are often meetings that are dreaded – yet seen as vital and mandatory. More often then not many of the participants are late, decide to miss it entirely, etc. This is a meeting that can easily be handled over e-mail, Skype, etc…
If you are a project manager, producer, etc… this is where you can truly shine. You can make an extra effort to sync quickly with the various participants and eliminate the need for the sync up. Maybe it is a direct email to each participant, maybe it is a quick form they fill out in lieu of the meeting. The point is to get their details and present the results in a fashion where others can catch up according tot heir schedule… thus freeing their calendar for other tasks.
The counter to this argument is the beneficial dialog that can take place when clarification is needed, opinions differ, etc. More often then not however this causes a side discussion during the sync meeting that only involves a few parties. The rest of the group has to wait while only a couple individuals work out their points of confusion. With the email report if confusion arises then the dialog starts between the two parties only. It does not distracted or take time away from the rest of the group.
Lecture Meetings causes Meetings to Suck
One of the most boring type of meetings to attend are the ones where the presenter simple reads off the bullets form the slides. These types of meetings truly suck. Remember that your slides are there as a crutch to help prop up your words and theories. Support your claims with data and graphs. Keep your bullets to a single line. Don’t read your bullets verbatim… rather have them support the explanation that you re providing to your audience.
Being Food-less during Lunch hour causes Meetings to Suck
Ok – this one might be a little bit more a personal dislike – but I can’t stand it when someone schedules a meeting for 12-1 and does not provide any food. Or does not state something like “bring food to the meeting since it will not be provided”. I know, I know… This one is much more of a personal frustration – but I often find myself leaving the meeting after realizing that food will not be served, getting food and then coming back.
it’s a simple curtousey. We are all very busy and the likelihood of us having other obligations right after or right before lunch are very high. I even hate the excuse of “this “is the only time you are free”. I’m free because it is my lunch hour and I need to eat. If I don’t eat then I get rude, short, picky and generally unpleasant to work with. So i guess if you want someone unpleasant to work with in your meeting – then please invite me during lunch.
Not ending the meeting early causes Meetings to Suck
There is absolutely nothing wrong with ending a meeting early. If you booked an hour meeting and you are done in 5 mins… then end that meeting early. Your participants will appreciate you for it and will be more open to attending your meetings in the future.
It can be really easy and tempting to jump to a new topic once the original one is complete. You have the people there and it seems fast and painless. This is a false hope though. You end up making your participants feel trapped and caught off guard. Maybe they are not ready to start discussing the new topic. Maybe this group is not the right group to talk about the new topic, etc.
If you feel so inclined to jump to a new topic here is our advice. Tell the group that they meeting is over. However since you finished early you think it would be advantageous to move on to a new topic while everyone is here. State the topic and ask if it is ok to proceed. That way the participants have an opportunity to opt out if they choose to. If they stay – then continue and get the new topic taken care of. The difference is that you concluded the first meeting and moved on after everyone made the choice to continue.
This is a small list – just a few of the things that quickly come to my mind as to what makes meetings truly suck. Learning how to run an effective meeting can be difficult. Like most things though if you put some conscious thought into the intent and purpose of a meeting you will almost always delver a better result.