The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Meetings Kill More Than Save …
December 7, 2015, 6:10 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Communication Strategy, Meetings

So this is the final week of this blog for this year.

Yes, I know it’s only the 7th of December, but frankly I am over it so god knows how you lot must feel.

Sadly that doesn’t mean the end of this blog, just the end of it for this year, because it will be back in Jan 2016. Oh yes.

[Cue: Evil laugh]

Anyway, as I’ll be writing a big Oscar-speech post on Friday [so make sure you’re washing your hair that day] I thought I’d make today relatively easy for you to take.

Let’s talk about meetings …

Contrary to the cartoon, not all meetings are a waste of time.

At their best, they are where people in various teams come together … explain what they’re doing … explain what they need from others … discuss what they have to do and when they will deliver it and then they go away and get on with it.

They are short, efficient, informative and valuable.

But sadly – as the cartoon captures – those sort of meetings have become the exception.

Many meetings today are a cross between a social gathering and a focus group.

Used more to ‘gauge opinion’ than to make decision.

They are energy and morale sapping … and yet we continue to feed their inefficiency for reasons I cannot fathom.

Well, actually I can fathom the reasons, but they’re not good ones.

Fear of making a decision. The illusion of communication. A false sense of collaboration.

Not great are they?

The amount of meetings I’ve been in, where people whose role had no direct value to the discussion is astounding.

But people now get invited for ‘political reasons’.

Everyone is encouraged to have a say.

There are “no wrong answers”.

But there are. There are a lot of wrong answers.

It’s not their fault, it’s the fault of the person who invited them.

If you’re going to ask someone to attend a meeting with little – or no – relevance to the discussion, they’re not going to say things that have value to the task in hand.

But they will say something simply because they feel they have to justify being there.

Which leads to long meetings that go off in lots of different directions with no clear, tangible outcome.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bringing in fresh perspectives to a meeting – and I’m all for bringing in people who are relatively new to the industry or office, so they have a chance to listen, learn and convey their viewpoint – but a meeting for me is something that should aid efficiency, not be an obstacle to it.

It’s a bit like brainstorms.

A lot of them are terrible, but in the right hands, they can be liberating.

And similar to brainstorms, the difference between good and bad is down to the organiser.

If they don’t know why they’re having the meeting so they don’t know who should – or shouldn’t – be invited, it’s a disaster.

In my experience, the best way to ensure people attend your meeting is to have a short meeting.

+ Know what the meeting is for.

+ Ensure the right people are in the room.

+ Give the meeting a maximum duration of 20 minutes.

+ Manage the debate to make sure the discussion stays on track.

If you do that, people will come … not just because they know if they miss it, they miss out … but we now live in a World where nothing makes someone want to attend a meeting like knowing they won’t have to attend it for long.


26 Comments so far
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This post has me confused. I’m excited that I only have one more week of posts so I can cleanse myself before the holidays. I’m scared because you said you’ve written a big oscar speech for Friday and if it’s any longer than this one it’s criminal. Or I should say even more criminal.

Comment by DH

It’s longer. Much longer. Nice to know I’ll end the year by breaking you.

Comment by Rob

your meetings used to be short so you could spend the time annoying the fuck out of anybody working by going up to them and spouting inane questions about your favourite cereal, queen song or shit joke. then when youve disrupted everyone youd fuck off for a coffee. im guessing youre still doing it given youre an immature fucking asshole. what the fuck was uncle dan thinking hiring you?

Comment by andy@cynic

“What’s your favorite colour?”
Who fucking cares.

Comment by Billy Whizz

The other annoying thing he did was want to always know what was going on in your personal life. Nosy bastard. As if I’d tell him.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Yes. He would come in, disrupt everyone then go. But don’t you dare dusrupt him or he’d have a meltdown.

Comment by DH

Andy for the win.

Comment by Bazza

as fucking usual.

Comment by andy@cynic

Going back to HHCL days, don’t forget his kerrang “meetings”.

Comment by George

It’s called ‘being interested’. I didn’t expect you to understand.

Comment by Rob

I know you did it because you cared, but I also know you did it to hold over us/humiliate us when it suited. You can take the boy out of Nottingham but you can’t take Nottingham out of the boy.

Comment by Pete

If you guys weren’t happy it would affect your work which would affect my work so it was in my interest to make sure you were all OK. Sure, it’s selfish caring but at least it’s caring and – as you pointed out – if I couldn’t help, it would at least give me ammo for free coffees. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Always about you.

Comment by DH

I’ve just forwarded this on to the worst offender at work. When they stop talking to me it will be your fault and I’ll thank you.

Comment by Bazza

hell want a fucking iphone 57 as payment. but hed want one regardless.

Comment by andy@cynic

The office meeting is a cancer to effectiveness. Many are in place simply for people who can’t make a decision to make a decision. If they said they wanted to hear alternate viewpoints to enable them to make a smarter choice, I could live with that. But often they’re not. They are designed to allow enable the broadest group of people to have a say, regardless of their relevance to the topic and acknowledging many speak because they feel duty bound to, with the ultimate goal being consensus rather than the most forthright decision. This is a good post.

Comment by George

Well said Robert, Andrew and George. I could not agree more.

Comment by Lee Hill

I agree about meetings, but wonder if you’d apply the same limiting rules to brainstorming? There seems to be a contradiction in your support of the latter.

Comment by John

We always put limits on the brainstorm meetings we had with clients.
Time, attendees, focus, commentary. I am positive the value of our workshops were because of our restrictions and I am sure Robert maintains this approach because the alternative would be vulgar.

Comment by George

This explains the eight year old mass debate that I just clicked through to – it’s all down to interpretation of a catch-all term. Unstructured brainstorming doesn’t work (or at least is very inefficient), but what you describe does.

Look at me being positive, agreeing repeatedly and building on previous opinions. I have to go and lie down now.

Comment by John

Yep. The other way is a weapon of destruction and sadly, I know this as I’ve been to many organised by clients over the years. Mind you, makes a change from them asking their agency to do all the work they should be doing.

Comment by Rob

Who are you John?

Comment by Rob

now you know how everyone who has ever fucking worked with you feels.

Comment by andy@cynic

Well said Rob. Meetings have a role, but nowadays it seems it’s to waste people’s time and energy.

Comment by Pete

How many meetings do you organize a day Pete? You were pretty prolific back in the day.

Comment by DH

if the beatles wrote a song about him, it wouldnt be called lovely peter but it sure as fuck would be called meeting maid.

Comment by andy@cynic




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