Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Introduction: Why are Meetings So Slow & Boring?

Every meeting starts with the same performance of opening remarks and clapping for the people that are already there. Most meetings follow a pattern where a chair is taken by someone who has been waiting for about two minutes and doesn’t look up or talk to anyone else. The person who took the seat does not talk either so everyone is just sitting there awkwardly. Then a third person comes in, who also is waiting to talk. And then another and another.
What is going on here? Why can’t we get started? Why does it take so long to circulate the meeting announcement, invite everyone to the meeting, and have the meeting start? Wouldn’t it be great if meetings could get going more quickly and be done sooner so that everyone could get back to their work or their families or their hobbies?
Let me share with you an experiment from a few years ago that helps us understand why meetings are so often slow and boring.
The experiment consisted of asking several dozen people to do one thing: walk across a room. A participant was blindfolded and then led across the room by the investigator who held onto the person’s elbow. And then repeated this process.
Here is what happened: Everyone moved slowly and cautiously, obviously taking their time so that they could devote every possible fiber of their being to treading on each other without bumping into anyone.

one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it
one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it

The Different Types of Meetings That Lead to Creativity & Productivity

There are many types of meetings that can trigger creativity & productivity but some that I have found tend to be very productive in these areas. Below you will find some of the most common meetings that tend to lead to creativity & productivity in my experience. These meetings can be found in almost all companies of any size.
Brainstorming – Brainstorming is a form of meeting that many people really dislike and they are right. It often doesn’t work and it is used far too often in corporate America. I have never seen a brainstorming session lead to actual anything other than wasted time and energy particularly if the team is not fully engaged. However, when you have a great team with full engagement, brainstorming can be very useful for generating new ideas and products.

one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it
one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it

How to Structure Your Meeting for a More Productive Day

The structure of your meeting might determine how much work you will get done during that day. Before the meeting make sure that you send out the agenda, so everyone knows why they’re being called in. Do what you can to make sure everyone at the meeting has a chance to talk and voice their opinion(s). If you do not do this then people are likely to leave the meeting without a clear understanding of what really has been said. The aim of the meeting should be to obtain clear and coherent decisions about what needs to be done, so that everyone can work on them on the following day.
As well as being a time for people to see what needs doing, meetings are also a way of making sure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute. In an ideal world, there would be two people per team. However, since this is not always possible, it is better that the meeting has only one leader. The leader should facilitate the discussion and make sure that no one dominates.
During the meeting, try not to talk over other people. They might have their own ideas, or things might just be in a different stage of development to you. Allow everyone to contribute, but try not to let one person dominate. If there is already a clear difference of opinion, then break it down into smaller groups to resolve it. As soon as this has been done, then talk again as a group and discuss how the meeting was run and what worked best. Start by asking everyone their opinion – but only if they agree.

one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it
one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it

Best Tools for Managing Your Meetings in Real-Time

The best tools for managing meetings in real-time are the notes that you took during the meeting, but if you didn’t take any notes then you should be able to figure out what was said and done at the meeting. Using all of the information that is available to you is a great way to manage a meeting. But, your meeting notes are the best sources of information. Here’s how you record a meeting:
Step 1. Jot down key actions as they occur with a combination of written notes and non-verbal signals. The notes should list what was said, who was present and when it occurred. Also list the action that occurred when each speaker finished speaking. Put these things in a prioritized order to reflect what was most important to the team or organization (work on them first).
Step 2. Confirm what was agreed to. I once had a meeting where we came up with a complete and detailed action plan for a six-month project but nobody took notes. As the project progressed, people started saying that they remembered something different than what we said. I am glad that I took written notes and confirmed them with each person individually by email.

one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it
one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it

Conclusion – How to Avoid Meetings and Be More Productive Without Them

I think that I have made it pretty clear how to make meetings more productive using some basic tools and with a structure. If all of this is still not enough for you, then the best thing to avoid meetings is to just not go or simply leave early. By doing this, you eliminate the need for a meeting as well as the repercussions that might come with you not showing up.
This fun side project post is inspired by a question that I got a lot when working in the office: “Why weren’t you at the meeting?”. This is still a fairly common thing to hear and it turns out that I’m not the only person who has trouble with this. The below quote is from a blog post by Eleanor Reynolds entitled “Why I Hate Meetings” with some minor formatting changes:

one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it
one often meets his destiny on the road to avoid it