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How To Decide Once And For All If You Really Need That Meeting

We’ve all suffered though pointless, never-ending meetings. Thankfully, there’s a foolproof way to figure out if you really need to meet.

How To Decide Once And For All If You Really Need That Meeting
[Photo: Flickr user Highways Agency]

Meetings are the new email: we’ve got too many of them, and too much time is spent sorting through productivity-zapping chaff before getting down to real action.

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We’ve all been in a meeting (or 20) and thought: “This is so pointless.” But how do you know when a meeting is needed, and when it’s better to pass?

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author and founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training, provides this handy flowchart to figure out when a meeting is worth having or skipping:


Think It Through

If your first reaction to a half-baked idea is to drag everyone into a room to work it out, stop right there: spend some time thinking about it from several angles before getting outside opinions. Don’t show up to a meeting stumbling over notes and umm-ing your way to the point. Honor everyone’s time by asking others to do the same. Solidify your ideas, get a plan together for moving forward, and continue to step two.

Do The Work First

Do you really need outside help for this, or are you insecure about the direction it’s taking and need to feel validated? Have something to show and discuss at the meeting. If you still need outside opinions before making a big decision or believe a group brainstorm is in order, proceed to the next step. American Express vice president Christopher Frank recommends asking at the beginning of every meeting, “What exactly are we meeting about?” That’s a good question to answer before even scheduling the meeting, too.

Decide What Kind Of Meeting You Need

If you’ve gotten this far, it’s time to gather round. Ask yourself these two questions before sending that meeting invitation:

Does it require real-time conversations? Sometimes, an outlined list of actions to take and questions to answer is better left to email. Not that you need another message in your inbox–but if you were planning to print out and pass around an outline, and then ask your team to get back to you with input later, leave it to email. It’s also easier to organize responses and return to them later when you’re filing them away in a shared folder online, than it is to assign a note-taker in person.

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Do you need to be face-to-face? If it does have to happen in real-time, chatting online or video conferencing saves everyone time in moving from their workspaces to a meeting room. That sounds cold and impersonal–and not recommended for important one-on-one meetings, as Saunders has taught us before–but for a simple check-in on progress or idea session, chatting together in a group messaging client can be just as productive.

[via HBR]

How Some People Really Sound In Meetings:

About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.

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