AWOFT: Meetings

Some quick guidelines on how to keep your everyday work meetings from being a waste of time.

Posted in Rants on November 24, 2009

In the spirit of this article, lets get right to it, most meetings are a waste of fucking time (AWOFT). Unfortunately, they are scheduled every minute of every day in corporate life. Yet meetings are doomed from the start. They fall victim to their own scheduling. They are either too long, too often, or include too many people. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. You want to stay engaged and focused, but when a meeting gets off track it can become challenging. Not to mention unproductive.

I’ll admit, I have an extremely low tolerance for when a meeting gets derailed. Blame it on my efficiency, but for me, it’s literally painful. I imagine I am not alone in this regard. So I have compiled a list of some meeting guidelines.

Have a clear meeting goal

There are two keywords for this tip: clear and goal. This should be Meetings 101, but somewhere someone forgot. All too often I sit through a meeting that seems as though it has no direction. Then it hits me, “This meeting is AWOFT.”

A meeting should have a goal, and it should be stated clearly. It may sound lame, but it takes 4 seconds to say, “I brought us together to determine web form markup.” The meeting now has an objective that everyone is aware of and can actively participate. This also gives wrong people the opportunity leave (see below). As a quick aside, don’t take offense, in fact, offer attendees the option. With a clear goal set there’s less probability the meeting becomes AWOFT.

Keep the meeting as brief as possible

A 4+ hour meeting is ridiculous. There’s a high probability that it is AWOFT for most attending. Personally, I think a good meeting has a life span of one hour. One and a half at the most. I think you would agree that you would rather sit through a 30 minute meeting where you were focused than a 3 hour meeting that became AWOFT after an hour. Remember, you can always schedule a follow up meeting or ask if people are available to stay a little longer.

Schedule the right people for the meeting

Bill the printer technician doesn’t need to attend your meeting about mailing invoices. Now that he’s in your meeting, he’s going to give his two cents. In doing so, the meeting is now AWOFT for just about everyone else, because everything Bill is saying about printer cartridges doesn’t matter in respect to your meeting goal. It’s sweet, but don’t invite Bill.

There is another implication to the rule, to ensure you have all the right people. Although you don’t need Bill, you probably do need Betty, the invoicing manager for the past 4 years. It’d be wise to have her in the loop.

Meetings are formal

A meeting is, by nature, a formal event. It’s a scheduled event in a specific place at a specific time for people to communicate. Be that as it may, formal does not mean long duration (see above). First and foremost, formal means be on time. Second, formal means that you don’t need to schedule a meeting with three other people to review the documents I requested. That’s AWOFT, for everyone. Don’t do it. Informally come over to my desk. If that’s not enough for some reason, then you have bigger problems on your team.

A hope for better meetings

Try these in your next meeting. Maybe you can’t do all of them. In the end, these are simply tips I have come across from various sources and find valuable in my personal experience. I see more engagement, less time wasted, and find myself scheduling fewer meetings.

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