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Make a Meeting Actually Matter


Robby

Ever been to one of those meetings where nothing really happened and you realize that it was just a big waste of time? I go to a ton of meetings here in Indianapolis and elsewhere, and too many of them are awful. What are you supposed to do?

The problem of waste in meetings happens everywhere. People devalue time in a variety of ways:

  • Arriving late
  • Talking about irrelevant topics
  • Failing to have an agenda
  • Not being prepared
  • Asking questions that are not relevant to everyone
  • Explaining information that could be provided in advance

These are many of the problems that happen with meetings. You can shortcut many of these yourself by preparing in advance, But what should you do if you’re stuck in a terrible meeting?

Here’s the secret: apologize.

That’s right: if you’re in a bad meeting, say you’re sorry. Not because you did anything wrong, but because of how people react whenever you apologize.

If you say: “Hey guys, I screwed up here.”

Other people say: “No problem, don’t worry about it.”

Sorry about that!
© Flickr User butupa

If other people arrive late to a meeting, apologize to them that you have to end on time. Cut off the getting-stated chitchat with “I’m sorry to cut us off, but I have another meeting after this so I need us to get started. Is that okay?”

If people bring up something which wasn’t on the agenda, apologize for not being familiar. “I’m sorry, I haven’t had a chance to study this in detail yet. Can we schedule another meeting after I have a chance to review it?”

If people want to outline something complex or make announcements, apologize that you are having trouble keeping up. “I’m sorry, this is a lot for me to cover. Would it be okay to get this all written in an email so I can study it?”

Sneaky cat
© Flickr User Sean

The words “I’m sorry” may seem manipulative. It’s true that you’re trying to get something you want. And it’s also true that you’re saying something you don’t actually believe—that you have made a mistake and need to admit it. You have to decide for yourself if you want to do this.

But, the alternative is to be assertive and direct. Consider:

If you say: “Hey, we were supposed to start start ten minutes ago—are you able to be on time for future meetings?”

Other people might say: “Yeah, sorry about that.”

Or: “Yeah, I was busy with something else.”

Or: “Whatever, don’t be so serious.”

Or: “I’m the boss. The meeting doesn’t start without me.”

The best thing to do with respect to a meeting is to prepare. Write an agenda. Pass out documents to be reviewed days before hand. Show up on time, and have something to do if others are late (besides chit-chat). Plan to end on time. Keep an eye on the clock.

But if you find yourself stuck in a terrible meeting, consider apologizing. It’s a great way to encourage others to accept that things aren’t right and need to change, without making them feel like they are fault.

Good luck surviving your next meeting.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Tue, July 15 2014 » Corporate Culture, Success Consciousness

2 Responses

  1. Kristin Seed August 5 2014 @ 11:34 am

    I serve as a volunteer on a few different committees. It seems that people are less likely to run an efficient meeting with volunteers because they don’t want it or seem ‘too serious’ or business like — like work.

    But I think most would prefer some order and more would get accomplished if things weren’t so relaxed.

  2. robbyslaughter August 6 2014 @ 11:37 pm

    Kristin, thanks for your comment!

    The word "relaxed" doesn't mean that nothing gets done. Relaxing just means "not stressful."

    You can make steady progress in an environment which isn't stressful. In fact, a great way to prevent stress is by having a plan so that people aren't surprised.

    Thanks again!

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