Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 4, Issue 33;   August 18, 2004: How to Make Meetings Worth Attending

How to Make Meetings Worth Attending

by

Many of us spend seemingly endless hours in meetings that seem dull, ineffective, or even counterproductive. Here are some insights to keep in mind that might help make meetings more worthwhile — and maybe even fun.

So much of what we call "meeting" is actually joint, aimless conversation. And, feeling helpless to make a difference, we tend to blame others for the situation. I have good news: we can make our meetings more energetic, more effective, shorter, and more fun. Here are some insights that can help.

  • A meetingIf you're considering inviting some people, but you don't want to hear what they have to say, don't invite them.
  • Holding four conversations in parallel makes the meeting last four times as long.
  • To make the meeting shorter, speak less.
  • A meeting should be as short as possible and no shorter.
  • The best antidote for dull, boring meetings is humor.
  • Unless you want to relive an agenda item next time, assign some kind of an action item to move it forward.
  • Meetings are for issues. Email is for announcements.
  • If the length of the meeting's time slot, in minutes, divided by the number of people attending is 4 or less, either the meeting is too short or you have way too many people.
  • Withholding the agenda until the meeting starts is a good way to surprise everybody.
  • The best antidote
    for dull, boring
    meetings is humor
    If some people aren't talking enough, consider the possibility that other people are talking too much.
  • Screaming people make bad decisions.
  • Bad decisions make screaming people.
  • Interrupting people is the best way to get them not to hear you.
  • We're not here just to discuss. We're here to resolve.
  • Rushing to a resolution gets you to the wrong place as fast as possible.
  • All meetings take at least as long as you have set aside for them.
  • If the agenda remains unchanged after the first item, maybe people aren't really engaged…or maybe they're being railroaded.
  • Unless you agree in advance about how to run the meeting, most people assume that it will be run their way.
  • If the chair doesn't intervene when the meeting boils over, leave — or get cooked.
  • Robert's Rules are too much baggage for any group with fewer people than the number of rules in Robert's Rules.
  • If you can't make a decision because you're missing some information, talking about it some more probably won't help.
  • You'll be assigned fewer action items if you actually attend.
  • Raising topics that could result in action items for others invites retribution.
  • To make the heavy lifting easier, start the meeting with appreciations for the contributions of specific people.
  • When someone speaks from the heart, listen to the beat.

Get together with some buddies and pick your top five from this list plus your own items. Together, take action at your next meeting. Notice what works and do more of that next time. Repeat until meetings are fun. Go to top Top  Next issue: Some Truths About Lies: II  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Mascot in duck costumeNames and Faces
Most of us feel recognized, respected, and acknowledged when others use our names. And many of us have difficulty remembering the names of others, especially those we don't know well. How can we get better at connecting names and faces?
Jersey barriers outside the U.S. White HouseProblem Defining and Problem Solving
Sometimes problem-solving sessions are difficult because we get started solving a problem before we know what problem we're solving. Understanding the connection between stakeholders, problem solving, and problem defining can reduce conflict and produce better solutions.
Dr. Jerri Nielsen at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in 1999On Virtual Relationships
Whether or not you work as part of a virtual team, you probably work with some people you rarely meet face-to-face. And there are some people you've never met, and probably never will. What does it take to maintain good working relationships with people you rarely meet?
Illustrating the concept of local maximumFalse Summits: II
When climbers encounter "false summits," hope of an early end to the climb comes to an end. The psychological effects can threaten the morale and even the safety of the climbing party. So it is in project work.
A forest pathThe Goal Is Not the Path
Sometimes, when reaching a goal is more difficult than we thought at first, instead of searching for another way to get there, we adjust the goal. There are alternatives.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Effective Meetings for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Tuckman's stages of group developmentComing December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
An actual straw manAnd on December 14: Straw Man Variants
The straw man fallacy is a famous rhetorical fallacy. Using it distorts debate and can lead groups to reach faulty conclusions. It's ad readily recognized, but it has some variants that are more difficult to spot. When unnoticed, trouble looms. Available here and by RSS on December 14.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
More articles about conducting and participating in meetings!
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!