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Gunnar Gissel
Gunnar Gissel

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Meetings for Developers

As a developer advances in their career, they attend many, many meetings. "Too many meetings," most developers would say. Paul Graham talks about the "maker schedule" which is a model that rings true for me. A single meeting, especially a poorly run meeting, in the middle of a morning or afternoon, ruins half a day.

boring meeting

Thank you Ville Säävuori

Yet, meetings are valuable. A good meeting can help a team reach consensus, or pitch a new idea to management or create that elusive "synergy" between coworkers.

Part of the trouble for developers is that they are often not the meeting maker. Many people don't know how to run a good meeting.

Understanding Different Types of Meetings

Sometimes, meeting discontent comes from a lack of clarity about the purpose of the meeting. There are only a handful of constructive meeting types. Getting stuck in a meeting that doesn't match one of the following patterns is generally unpleasant and unproductive.

Meeting Types, Arranged by Purpose

  • Inform
    • This type of meeting is easy to set up and often easy to attend. These are just presentations to a group of people
  • Consult
    • Decision makers hold these meetings to gather input. What they do with the input is not part of the meeting, but these meetings offer the chance to speak up
  • Discuss
    • Discussion meetings bridge the gap between a consultation meeting and a collaboration meeting. There is back and forth, but a decision is not necessarily the product of the meeting. These aim to create something like a 'meeting of the minds'
  • Collaborate
    • This type of meeting is tough to run. The goal is to have the participants discuss and collectively decide something.

Be the Change You Want in the World

empty meeting room

Thank you Thoroughly Reviewed

Somewhere around mid-career, developers start hosting their own meetings. Make the world a better place by only hosting meetings that you would want to attend.

The key to hosting a good, productive meeting is to understand what the intent of the meeting is before meeting. The developer should decide what kind of meeting they are hosting before they host the meeting. Once the goal is realized, plan the meeting so that everything bends toward that goal.

Write an agenda - there is no such thing as a good meeting without an agenda. The act of writing the agenda, and assigning time estimates to each section of the meeting will make it clear if the meeting can be short or if the meeting will be too long.

Do not take notes at a meeting you host.

Do not take notes at a meeting you most.

Do not take notes at a meeting you host.

Get someone (not you) to take notes during the meeting. A designated note taker will leave you free to lead the meeting, present your material and guide discussion. Note takers can also provide feedback on your meeting performance afterwards. A record of what happened during the meeting is extremely useful to send to meeting participants.

Encouraging meeting makers to behave

If you are invited to a meeting without an agenda, ask the meeting organizer when they will send out the agenda. Be sure to ask far enough in advance for them to write the agenda.

If no one is taking notes for the meeting, offer to take notes. This will help ensure everyone ends up on the same page. You also have the option to frame the discussion.

If the meeting scheduled is lengthy, request to break it into smaller meetings, or that you get invited only to the part relevant to you. This doesn't always work - sometimes a person must develop an iron butt.


large meeting

Thank you Ricter Frank-Jurgen

Meetings are inescapable. As with all things that can't be changed, embrace them and make them your own to lessen your pain. Meetings don't have to suck - run your meetings so they don't suck, and gently encourage others to improve their meetings.

Remember, a meeting is a communication tool, just like email, Slack or JIRA. Use meetings well and lots of good can happen. Use them poorly, and suffer.

Visit my blog for the original article

Thanks to Thomas Kohler for the header image

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