Do we need meetings at all? What are the alternatives? This video goes into when a meeting is the best choice. In addition, learn about virtual meetings, and about standing up as an option.
- Your first job when you're planning a meeting is to decide the format. And the first point to consider is, do we need a meeting at all? Meetings are expensive. Imagine if each person cost $50 an hour and you have 10 people for a couple of hours. That's $1000. And they're hard to organize when everybody's busy. And also, they aren't always that productive. At any one point, there are going to be some people at the meeting who aren't engaged. Maybe the issue currently under discussion doesn't affect them or they already know what's being explained.
So the next option to think about instead of having that meeting is maybe you could possibly see the individuals one to one, that might be better, particularly if you want to talk to each of them, but they don't really need to interact much with each other. Another option is to email everyone and this works well if the information is just one way, from you to them, and you don't need a lot of feedback or discussion. Or, if they're geographically spread out or if they're extremely busy and they prefer to look at their emails at whatever time of day suits them.
Another option is technology. Personally, I'm not a great lover of conference calls, although we will look at them briefly later, but they are an option, especially when you're spread out geographically or people are working from home. And video conferencing is certainly a viable choice. I much prefer it to a conference phone call because you can see the body language and that makes it much easier to communicate in a group. And video conferencing is becoming a cost-effective option now that webcams are so good and so cheap and the connection speeds are generally fast enough.
Just two other factors to think about when you're planning the format of your meeting. First is do we need to have any materials presented? Do we need a big Powerpoint screen or whatever, or are we just going to sit around a table and talk? This is really worth thinking about in advance, because nothing's more frustrating than arriving at a meeting when nothing is set up or no one can sort out the technology. And finally, bit of an odd one, but could the meeting be held standing-up? Apart from being healthier, standing-up meetings tend to be shorter and people's brains work faster when they're standing-up, so don't rule it out.
A good way to get a standing-up meeting to happen without seeming too weird is to meet on-site, have a look at the building or the machine, and as you stand around the project, you can have your meeting without realizing that it's a standing-up meeting. For small groups, you can even have a walking meeting. As you go from one building or machine to the next, you can discuss the issues and there's something about walking that helps people to relax and communicate more openly. I really like it if I can find a way to make it happen, but I think it's two or three people maximum.
By the way, something I've noticed is that people always complain about meetings. Too many meetings, badly-run meetings, but they also complain if you don't have meetings. I don't know what's going on, nobody ever asked my opinion, et cetera. In fact, I once worked for a boss who hated meetings because we might all vote against him, so he would just come and see you individually and bully you into agreeing whatever he wanted. And it was a terrible place to work. You never got to sit around the table with your colleagues and discuss things.
It felt like being in prison, in solitary confinement, and with no friends, no team. It really was horrible. Once, when he was away on holiday, we secretly had a meeting and it was great, it felt so good. So, don't take your meetings for granted and don't let people try to get rid of them because they take up a bit of time. Certainly question them, do we need the meeting? Can it be made shorter? Only hold the meeting if it will add value. But they really are a great communication tool if they're organized well and if you get the format right.
So, first, do you actually need the meeting? Have you worked out the real cost of your meeting and could it be replaced by email or one to one meetings with each person instead? And second, if the meeting is needed, could it be via Skype? What technology will we need? And could it be held standing-up or on the move?
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- Define the four types of meetings.
- Determine who needs to attend a meeting.
- Assess the ideal meeting duration.
- Produce reminders for successful meetings.
- Identify how to facilitate a successful meeting.
- Evaluate solutions for dealing with latecomers and common meeting problems.
- Assess if you should go to a meeting.
- Recognize how to make your voice heard.
- Plan remote or virtual meetings.