Try to keep the number of attendees low, especially for virtual meetings. Meetings that repeat tend to grow as individuals get added, and it's hard to remove people. This video provides polite ways to prune meetings that have grown. In addition, learn about Doodle as an inviting tool.
- Once you've sorted out the format of the meeting, next we have the question of who to invite to the meeting. It's easy to think, if in doubt, invite them because we don't want anyone to feel left out and we don't want to have any skill gaps at the meeting. But the problem is that each person you invite makes the meeting more unwieldy. If you go from four to eight people, the whole thing will feel completely different. It's going from an informal, fast moving group to a formal, complicated event with many more combinations of people to interact.
And then there's the cost of people's time and the logistics of organizing the meeting. We all know how difficult it can be to find a time that works for everyone, sometimes it's nearly impossible. So the key is to keep the number of attendees as low as possible. The one exception is the communication type meeting, where you're telling everyone your message. Then the numbers don't matter, they don't affect the length or the difficulty of the meeting. In this case, you really might as well invite everyone who needs to hear the message.
And this low numbers philosophy applies even more to virtual meetings over the phone or Skype. Teleconferences of more than three people get really difficult. And with video conferences you have limited screen space and it gets really hard to control who talks next without clear body language. We use physical signals like breathing in or leaning forward to signal that we want to say something to the group. And we send and receive these signals without realizing. So when they're taken away, on a phone conference call, we get into all sorts of difficulties.
I think when you're inviting people for the first time, it's not too hard to keep the numbers down. The bigger problem is when you have a regular meeting and it's gradually grown as extra people have been asked along for whatever reason. And then they've stayed and become established regulars. It's much easier to add a person than to drop them. And people aren't going to stop attending a regular meeting for fear of missing out or appearing rude. I've seen monthly meetings that have reached 35 people. They were sitting in an inner ring around the table and an outer ring around the edges of the room and it was hopeless.
So how can we prune a meeting that's got too large? Well the easiest way is to start a new meeting, a bit like taking and cutting of a plant. Start it of afresh, give the new meeting a new name, meet at a different regular time and a different place. And just invite the small group of key people that you want. And then discontinue the big meeting, just let it die off or at least make it much less frequent. And a final thought when you're inviting people to meetings, you might want to consider using Doodle as an inviting tool.
Even within a company, you can use it. And certainly, if you're organizing a bunch of hard to get people from all over the place, from different organizations, use Doodle, it's great. It's free, it's a Cloud-based website and very easy to use. You just put in your available dates and send it to the others. And each person ticks the ones they can make so you end up with the few dates that everyone can make. If there isn't one that everyone can make, perhaps provide different dates or just go for the meeting without one or two of the people.
So Doodle's much quicker than endless phone calls and attempts at finding a date. So for your meetings, what would be the ideal number of people to have? And can you reduce the number of people you invite? Could you use Doodle to find out when everyone's available? And how about my idea of starting a new, smaller version of your meeting, on a different day and with a different name?
- Setting up meetings
- Determining who needs to attend a meeting
- Choosing your meeting duration
- Providing reminders for successful meetings
- Facilitating a successful meeting
- Getting the best out of people
- Dealing with latecomers and common meeting problems
- Deciding if you should go to a meeting
- Making your voice heard
- Managing remote or virtual meetings