6 Things to Check Before Your Next Meeting

Wednesday was one of those days. By the time I got home at 9:30pm, I had cranked through a ton of meetings and felt as if I had little to show for it. Tired and missing my family, I looked back over the day.

Some of my meetings were brief (less than 10 minutes) while others lasted for a whole hour. One meeting was scheduled for the following week but I felt badly and met with the man anyway. A sports banquet started late and could have been done in half the time.  For better or worse, this is fairly typical for many of us who must attend events and meetings.  The question is this, "does it have to be this way?"

How about you?  What was your day like? Did meetings interrupt an otherwise productive day? Would you like to attend fewer of them?

Al Pittampalli states in The Modern Meeting Standard the fundamental problem with meetings is that they simply do not help us to be effective.  He argues that "The traditional meeting has held us hostage for too long. It’s wasted our time, energy, and drained from us the aliveness that makes work exciting and fulfilling. And for our organizations, the traditional meeting gets in the way of important decisions that need to be made for forward momentum. It forces our organization to walk, when we all have the burning desire to run."

I think that Al is on to something here- rather than letting meetings hold us hostage and derail and otherwise productive day, we can take stock of things and work through a check list prior to any meeting that you are scheduled to attend.  

Here's my list:

1. Ask: do I really need to be there? Were you invited because someone thought that it would be nice to have you attend or is your presence vital to the discussion? A lot of this answer will also depend on your role and function within the organization. As the leader of a high school, I will often "pop in" to a meeting but not have to stay for the entire time.
2. Insist on an agenda. It's a red flag if a meeting doesn't have an agenda.
3. Confirm that the meeting is actually going to happen. I can't tell you how many times I've shown up for a meeting only to find that it had been rescheduled or my Google Calendar didn't sync perfectly with my iPhone...frustrating.
4. Double check the location. Most meetings begin with a touch of drag because people aren't sure where the meeting is taking place. A quick fix is simply to be specific in your instructions to attendees. Good signage also helps.
5. Prepare yourself. Read through whatever was sent in advance. Leave time for parking. Bring your notepad. If meetings are part of work, come ready to work. Don't arrive at 2pm for a 2pm meeting. Try to get there five minutes early in order to pick out a good seat and arrange your things.
6. Muster up the courage to leave when the time is right. No, you don't have to hang out after the meeting is over. No, you don't have to waste time if a meeting is going poorly. Just close your notebook and excuse yourself.  Remember that professionals see their time as a comodity.

In closing, I realize that meetings are part of life.  To the degree that we can shift their vibe and flow, we will be more happy and productive.  Better yet, the people around us will gradually see how to use meetings effectively rather than as the default for genuine productivity. 

Question: As you look back over the week, what was the best meeting that you attended?  What made it productive?  (and no, you can't say "the one that I didn't attend"!)

 Photo courtesy of AP