‘Meetnapping’ is a new expression in the business lexicon, but many of us are actually already familiar with it.
It’s when you’re forced to attend pointless meetings and you almost fall asleep during someone’s labored presentation or a technical report that is not your area. Sometimes, meetings are a sad waste of everyone’s time.
Try suggesting the following to your colleagues:
Do we really need a meeting?
Draw up and agree to a loose schedule of regular meetings; but ensure what purpose the meetings serve, and whether they actually require everyone to be there. Often they don’t.
Set a time limit and stick to it
Set a practical and reasonable time limit for all meetings, while allowing everyone to make a worthwhile contribution. There’s usually one oxygen thief at the table (s/he may unfortunately be your CEO/manager). Agree on time up front, and keep to it. Ask questions that build in a summary of the longwinded bits to move it along. Get to action steps as these precede the closing of a good meeting.
Set the tone
Make it part of the meeting protocol (where possible) that people speak as engagingly as possible, and to listen to each other with interest. To do that, make sure agendas are sent well in advance, together with briefing notes where possible.
Chairing effectively and agree on meeting behaviours
Get everyone to agree to an effective, efficient and fair-minded chair who is willing to give the windup – even to his/her boss – and agree to a set of appropriate meeting behaviours. Not all groups know how to behave properly. Remind them either to observe basic meeting civilities and protocol, or despatch them elsewhere to deal with particular tasks. Keep it productive and focused on outcomes.
Work out best web, phone or conference technology for your meetings and best ways to include people working virtual. Find out what forum most people are most comfortable with, ensure they are up to speed when using the tech in question, and above all, observe etiquette no matter what the medium. It’s important that people are polite, constructive and don’t hog the discussion, irrespective of whether you meet in cyberspace or the boardroom.
Disseminate the meeting minutes promptly
Someone must be responsible for taking accurate notes, ideally listing actions on each agenda item (who/what/when) confirming accuracy with the chair and getting the notes out to participants ASAP. Event point form shared emails can work well. Avoid miscommunication by getting them out fast. Find a balance between discursive and direct when summarising points.
You might be the problem
Are you the reason why people’s eyes glaze over? Do you call meetings for every little thing, having first convinced yourself that you’re “collaborative” and “transparent” in your processes? Maybe you are, but some people just want to get on with the task at hand, and actually thrive on having requirements clearly stated at the outset rather than hashing back and forth. Consider the benefits of “few, bigger, better” when it comes to calling a general meeting.
If you are the problem – have all further meetings standing up.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.