I was having a conversation with some tech people recently about meetings, those things that we all seem to dislike. But why do we dislike them when communication and collaboration seems to be the words on peoples lips, aren't meetings just a slot of time that is focused on those particular things?
Well let's look at some of the rules to make your meetings better!
We live in a world where less really is more sometimes, and I feel that some people call meetings for things that can really just be a chat around a desk - or worse call a meeting for what could have been an email. There should be a list of avenues that you attempt before calling that meeting:
- Have you tried talking about the subject
- Have you tried emailing?
- Have you tried messaging people
If non of these avenues are working only then you should think about taking time away from people.
If you having a lot of meetings - in my mind you may be doing something incorrectly and maybe you need to learn how to talk with your team again. But in some scenarios sometimes meetings are a good thing! We want more callaboration and more communication, getting people in a room together to talk face to face is probably the best way to get people to focus, but remember to structure your meetings (talked about later on) don't overrun and have an agenda.
Be ready to evacuate the area, start packing away your meeting 5 minutes early so that the next meeting can get underway, don't waste other peoples time by packing up after your meeting has ended, you will not be thanked.
No one likes someone who is late for a meeting, if you do turn up late then it is on you to catch up with what is going on, don't walk in 20 minutes late and ask for a summary of whats been discussed because your just wasting peoples time.
Be sure to have an agenda in mind, if you must make a detailed bullet point list of things that you would like to discuss and how long you feel the discussion should go on for, set a timer. Try it and see how it feels, no one wants to talk about a singular thing for more than 25 mintues, people tend to drift and not have a vested interest after that amount of time. Be sure to get what you need from people about a particular subject then move onto the next
You need to know the actionable points that you want to get out a meeting - heer's a really good and easy example we are going to discuss this new api we are building here are some actionable questions that we need answers to before we continue onwards
- Is it going to be versioned
- Is this a restful api?
- What url template are we going to use
- What status codes are we going to use in x scenario
Do some research, do more research than nessasary, if it's about a new project or new infrastructure have a advantage/disadvantage list ready so that you can make informed decisions. One of the worst things that you can do (take it from my personal experience) is walk away from a meeting saying that you need another meeting to decide what you wanted to decide in the meeting that you just went through.
Make sure you are fully informed on what is about to be discussed - don't go in cold turkey and "wing it".
Much like improv you need to "yes and" people a lot, if you say "no" you automatically block off that avenue of thought, you don't want to restrict yourself to this. Never say no, say "how about", "what if", "That's a good idea, thinking about it in another way....", build on ideas.
Please don't go off on a massive tangeant about things that may not matter, if you feel that something is worth discussing in depth and isn't an immediate blocker then schedule it for another discussion, if it is an immediate blocker I then in my opinion it should have been pointed out before the meeting so that people could've contributed towards pushing past it.
I can say from personal experience no one enjoys that 20 minute rant that some people go on about "the future" of the project - keep to the points outlined, if you need to vent or rant then do it when your not wasting meeting times.
I have been in too many meetings where the subject matter just didn't concern me in the slightest, you can leave! Just do so curteously, pick up your items and quietly leave the room.
Once you have your actionable items you need to well action them! So be sure to take notes of what has been discussed and what conclusions you have come to so that you don't forget them by the time you get back to your desk.
After each item, take a five minute breather, easy rule. Not everyone can think about one item in depth and then move directly onto another subject one after another, allow some time to relax after one deep conversation and get ready to start the next one, encourage people to get out of their seat.
GET OUT OF YOUR SEAT! draw on a white board, write stuff on sticky notes and post them on a wall, literally anything to get people out of their seat, people get more involved when their not slumpping in their chair!
I once worked in a team where it felt like the only time we talked as a team is in meetings. We normally spent meetings talking about massive blockers we just thought of, which meant that we'd have to go away and book more meetings!
Please learn from that teams mistakes, you need to discuss the agenda with the team, you need to inform the team on what is going to be discussed and if they have any major blockers that they could see to bring it up before the meeting so that can be discussed before the item that is going to be blocked.
We've all bene there, sat quiet in our chair afraid that the idea that we have in our head is a stupid one, but maybe it will be great, or maybe I will be mocked for it, oh no, scary.
You need to let go of this feeling, you need to just "think out loud" no matter the thought we can note it down and build on it, ideas create more ideas.