Take a look at your calendar today. Is it one big giant blob of “meetings” one right after another? Do you see any breaks in the action? You know, like the ones you need for stretching, bio stuff, getting your work done or taking a breath? Now take a look at your week. How many “meetings” in that blob are an hour or more long? Do you know why you were asked to join? Will you actually contribute something or will you just sit quietly again while someone else drones on and on? How many of the meetings you say yes to bring you joy? How many help you connect with another person more fully?  How many make your work day more fulfilling because you got something special or complex accomplished? There may be a few of you who spend your days in meeting bliss and if so, I’m doing a happy dance for you! Consider yourselves fortunate and also, you can stop reading now, if you’d like. This article is for most other working people, whose meetings represent the most unproductive part of the workday. 

Laptop? Check.

Mousepad? Check.

Work phone? Check.

Personal phone? Check. 

We’ve all been in countless meetings just like this.  Sometimes, we even bring snacks- another pleasant thing to occupy us while we count down the minutes until we’re free to go to the next mind number of a meeting. Many people who say yes to meetings are prepared to spend that time doing something else. They treat it like a time out because they know full well, there will be someone who totally dominates the hour. I call that person The Droner. The meeting usually goes a little something like this:

Everyone files in. They unpack their bags, set up their temporary space, turn on their devices and search for power outlets to charge those devices. (See above.) The remote attendees dial in, join in a fractured way and awkwardly announce they’ve arrived. Usually, this awkwardness is magnified as people talk over one another, uncertain as to when they should chime in. After all, because everyone is just dialing in, it’s really just a guess as to who is on and who should speak. And then, there’s the poor soul with really lousy audio who blows everyone’s eardrums as they keep asking, “Can anyone hear me?”

As people get their little nomadic offices settled, The Droner tees up the slides. The attendees happen to look up long enough from their various devices only to catch a glimpse of the eye chart of an agenda they know they’ll never get through and the thumbnail view of the slides. Then the real disconnect begins. People start counting the number of slides to gage how much time they’ll have to catch up on email, another project, Slack (also known as IM) with colleagues in that same meeting about something unrelated or catch up on their latest Facebook feed. The Droner may or may not wiggle in a quick “welcome” before  launching into their diatribe. To make matters worse, The Droner rarely pauses, to ask the guests for thoughts or questions. The meeting is a useless one person show. Remote attendees begin dropping like flies. The others begin packing up their stuff and get ready to mindlessly shuffle to the next meeting for the next hour where they can expect more of the same depressing and unrewarding turn of events. This continues meeting until the entire precious hour is totally burned. 

I do realize amazing meetings happen too where BIG ideas are shared and magic happens. That knowledge makes my heart sing! However, for most people, meetings are total time sucks with very little space, if any, for creativity or ideation. The bodies are there but not much more. Nothing is worse than carving out time we already have too little of, only to leave a meeting wondering why the heck we said yes in the first place. We become resentful when we realize how little we actually accomplished relative to whatever it is we showed up to do in our business day. Disengagement follows shortly after.

A monologue is not a meeting folks. Meetings should never be blobs of time scheduled for solo diatribes, multi-tasking or catching up on social media. A meeting is an agreement. That’s super important to remember. One person invites another (or many others) to join them for a specific reason. If you say yes, you should have a reason to show up and you should know exactly what that is. If you’re the one sending the invitation, you should noodle on the same, ahead of sending out the invitation in the first place. When you consider the meeting guest list and the way those guests will lend their magic, you are honoring and respecting the time of the guests you’re asking to share time with you.  That kind of discernment comes from a place of kindness, empathy and intention. It’s mindfulness in business and it goes a long way, especially in a time where most of us have giant blobs of never ending, largely useless meetings on our calendars. 

Meetings should be times when people agree to show up and get something done, TOGETHER. It could be to craft a plan, solve a puzzle, or maybe, just maybe, to create the next most amazing thing no one has even thought of yet! More time does not equal better time. The magic amount of time for a meeting is not the default hour that we’ve somehow agreed on. (Thanks Google.) The right amount of time for a meeting is the time you actually need to accomplish what you mutually agreed to and not one minute more.

Meetings in the truest sense of the word, are the ones where people come together to connect and align their superhero powers for the good of the business they are doing.  Can you imagine what would have happened if the Avengers showed up to save the world and instead of connecting and agreeing to a plan, they just sat on their phones, snacking on M&Ms? It makes me shudder to think about it.

*If you’ve reached the end of this article and are wondering “How do I architect amazing meetings?” connect with us. We can show you how. Let’s work together.