Learning how to conduct a meeting should be mandatory in all grade schools. Maybe if it was, we would eventually end the misery that occurs so often in organizations when someone calls an informational meeting.
Let’s see some common cases below.
Why don’t they just send everyone a memo?
Michelle, an account manager sits in her weekly staff meeting waiting to go home to spend time with her kids. One by one, her director reads out loud “important” announcements to her and six colleagues about recent policy changes. As she looks at the clock ticking away, minutes she could be playing with her daughters, it dawns on her: “Why didn’t they just e-mail me this information? Couldn’t I have read this on my iPhone during my train ride home?”
Was that live conference call really necessary?
The meeting leader talked for the entire 90 minutes about the status of the new e-commerce system that supposedly made website orders easier. The content was so boring, no one dared ask any questions.
Ashwin listened to the call on speakerphone so both hands were free to do real work but since one ear was on the phone, he was only 1/3 as productive.
Frustrated by his own lack of productivity, he couldn’t help but ask himself an obvious question: “Is the only reason I’m on this call to avoid getting in trouble for not attending? If there’s no meaningful dialogue taking place, why doesn’t the presenter just record himself speaking and send us the audio file?”
Why does the informational meeting still exist?
In an era of social media abundance, where so many rich methods of communication are everywhere (e-mail, recorded audio, recorded video, etc.) why are we still herding people together to hear policy updates? Meeting for the purpose of disseminating information is like washing your dishes with Evian water. It works, but it’s expensive and slightly ridiculous.
There are two reasons why these time stealing, soul draining info sessions still exist:
- Convenience. People have a strong aversion to writing. Sometimes it’s difficult to capture everything we want to say effectively in an e-mail or memo. So when information needs to be disseminated the temptation is to hold a meeting. It can feel easier.
- Fear. We’re afraid what we have to say won’t be heard otherwise. People also have a strong aversion to reading. We know from past experience that sometimes people tend to ignore our written communication. The logic for the recipient goes: “Well if it’s really important, I’m sure we’ll have a meeting about it.“
This is silly. Is a memo that takes you twenty minutes to write worth saving nine people the hassle of watching you say it for half an hour? Is reading your e-mail worse than being stuck in a weekly staff meeting that bores you into a coma?
Here’s the solution, a sacred pact: All informational meetings are hereby cancelled, but we must all commit to reading memos. If even a couple of people fail, the entire system of trust breaks down.
Can you imagine how much more time you’d have if informational meetings were abolished? How much real work could you get done, and how much bigger of a difference could you make in your organization?
Start a no informational meeting pledge in your office. Put it in writing and make everyone in the office sign it. If it works, and it just might, get ready to become the office hero.
How and why do you conduct a meeting? Do you have a story of a meeting gone ineffective or where a memo could have worked just fine?
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