Meetings Part III: The Meat of the Meet

We will presume that you’ve started your meeting with the proper preparation, as discussed in last week’s column. Now it is time to get into the business of the meeting, the meat of the meet as it were. This week, we will discuss participation.

Who needs to be at the table? If decisions are to be made (and that is what meetings are for) then the authority of those attending should be roughly equal. If someone sends a subordinate to take notes and report back, the time of those who came prepared to make a decision is wasted. Consider a rule that says “If you can’t attend a previously agreed-upon meeting, the rest of the participants can make the decisions without you.” standing meeting

Why do you need a table at all? If the agenda calls for a meeting of 30 minutes or less, meet standing up. It keeps folks from getting too relaxed and wasting time.

No serial dialogue. That’s when the chair talks with the first person, then with the next, then with the next. That isn’t a meeting, it’s reporting. Every discussion should involve everyone present. If a topic isn’t relevant to one or more attendees, it should be handled in a different meeting.

Just because it impacts you… It has become standard practice in business to say “You are going to be discussing things that affect my job (or my project, or my department) so therefore I have to be in attendance.” No…you…don’t. Unless you are part of the decision making process, a copy of the meeting notes or minutes will serve nicely.

Presentations aren’t meetings. Sitting through a PowerPoint in a darkened room doesn’t put anyone in a creative or collaborative mood. Besides, having one person make their case to begin with sets an expectation of arguing for or against the presentation’s conclusions. Present relevant background information ahead of time; not everyone wants to absorb it at the same rate.

Put it in the parking lot. It’s a great device to cut off irrelevant conversation without being rude. Agree to keep a list of items that come up and which need to be discussed, but aren’t on the agenda for this meeting.

Hand signals? This one is from David Cunningham in Colorado. Agree on some hand signals that allow all participants to call a question or point out irrelevancies. David suggests a hand slash across the throat to cut discussion, for example. I’m not sure about that one. Where I grew up, it probably wouldn’t have been a great way to communicate, but obviously David isn’t Italian.

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One Response to Meetings Part III: The Meat of the Meet

  1. David Basri says:

    One more item for the “meat of a meeting”. Punctuality. A company I was with in the ’80s charged $1/minute after 3 minutes. The money went in a jar (literally) and when there was enough we all went out for a round of drinks after work. This policy did not hurt anyone financially, but it had a huge positive impact on punctuality.

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