How to triumph over Useless Meetings

There was a time at Pusher when meetings were longer. Less welcome. Meetings which chewed up precious mornings that solved and achieved little, but which are fortunately no longer a part of life at Pusher today.

Efficiency is particularly important to us, both for the software and as a company ethic. We want to share some insight on how we managed to cut the waste out of our meetings, making them more focused and valuable.

Time, time, time

The biggest constraint for us, as with any startup, is time. We didn’t have an hour or two to spare sitting around only to agree on “doing something”. And then having a follow up meeting on discussing what the “something” meant. And then another on how to “do” it.

An ineffective meeting is damaging not only to your work schedule, but also to team morale. There’s no worse motivation than “I know it won’t help but I don’t have a choice”.

Slaying the Beast

To cut the waste out of meetings, we laid down some very simple rules. If you want to hold a meeting, you own it. If you break it, you still own it. Fortunately, we developed a list of questions for meeting owners to ask themselves to avoid breakage:

  • What is the goal of the meeting?

This is more difficult than it sounds because it’s so easy to fall on generalities. “The goal of the meeting is to agree that we need to do more PR” is a goal, isn’t it?

Well, it is…except that it’s the exact kind of goal that pisses people off and evaporates out of people’s heads the moment the meeting is done. Avoid generalities. Set a substantive, attainable goal for the meeting to work towards.

If there’s no clear and defined goal, we don’t have the meeting.

  • Is the meeting necessary?

When you call for a meeting, be conscious of the fact that it’s not just your time it’s eating up – it’s everyone else’s too. What will you gain from a meeting that could not be attained through real-time chat or an email conversation?

If that can’t be answered, we don’t have the meeting.

  • Who needs to attend the meeting?

There’s no point inviting people to a meeting just to sit and listen – that’s the exact definition of wasting other peoples’ time. Get the people who are relevant to your goal. Does the meeting somehow manage to involve everyone? If it does, the goal is probably far too broad.

And we don’t…alright, you get it.

  • What information do participants need to bring to the meeting?

Your job as the owner is to set an agenda, and have your participants be ready with some information or ideas before attending. This way, you avoid having stragglers who only sit in and listen without contributing.

If you’ve requested that and some still have nothing to contribute? Have those offenders do a coffee run as punishment (Pusher takes no responsibility for any medical conditions that may develop out of running to your local coffee shop in this weather).

  • Who’s going to be taking notes?

So you had the best meeting and everyone’s happy until someone asks at lunch: “so, what exactly did we discuss again?”

Have a note taker for the meeting – you don’t need a professional secretary writing in shorthand, just have someone jot the key points down and have the notes sent out to relevant participants. Be sure it’s not the owner to avoid overwhelming one person with having to lead the meeting and keep track of it simultaneously though.

Killing the Meeting Monster

These key rules and questions have helped us reduce the number of meetings we hold. The ones that we do hold are vastly more efficient, productive and beneficial for the mood of participants as well (as a KPI, eyeball rolling during meetings was reduced by 90% following the introduction of these rules). We hope that they will be of use to you as well!

What are your worst experiences with meetings? Tell us in the comments below or give us a tweet and we’ll be sure to sympathise!

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