Nearly everyone has endured a bad meeting at one point or another. At best, they waste hours of time. At worst, they create misunderstanding and confusion.
Bad meetings come in many forms, and are caused by a variety of problems. The following are 6 common bad meetings and how to avoid them.
Some meetings aimlessly wander from microscopic detail to strategy and mission statements. We call these Nomads. They can go on for hours and accomplish nothing because they have three big problems.
- Nothing can be covered in any depth, so there are no tangible results.
- They often lead to misunderstandings and confusion.
- They tend to bring up unimportant and non-pressing topics.
Avoid the nomad by forming an agenda. Ensure that everyone in the meeting has a clear understanding of what will be covered, what will not be covered, how to prepare, what to expect as take-aways.
If only one person is talking, it isn't a meeting. It's an announcement or a presentation. Don't kid yourself that you want a meeting when you really just want an audience.
If the topic at hand needs to be announced or presented, that's fine, but set the right expectation with your group. Announcements are best handled by email or memo, and presentations require time at the end for discussion.
Another tactic is to assign everyone 2 minutes for their update. This encourages more reserved people to contribute, and constraints dominant personalities.
Pre-meeting meetings are very rarely justified. They usually indicate that the scope for the meeting is far too broad, that the meeting is being called prematurely, or that there isn't a consensus on the purpose of the meeting.
Instead of planning a summit, limit the topics and invite fewer people. It is far more effective to schedule a series of small meetings, than one large behemoth.
The Open House
Meetings need firm start times and end times for everyone who is invited. Hold late people to account by pointing out the time, not giving them a chance to air their excuse, and holding them after to cover the material they missed.
Don't invite the problem by asking someone to drop in or drop by. When scheduling the meeting, give a firm start time AND a firm stop. Going late is just as bad as starting late.
Bad meetings often end with vague expectations and time lines. They talk about hypothetical work that could one day be of some unknown use to somebody.
Meetings should end with a wrap up of who is doing what for whom, when and how. Everyone leaving the meeting should be very clear on what they need to do.
Host great meetings
Plan a great meeting by ensuring that everyone who is coming knows:
- What to expect
- How to prepare
- When it starts
- What's expected after the meeting.