Some years ago, I read a poignant quote that said, “In meetings, you take minutes, yet end up wasting hours.” Some meetings can be a very good use of time, but others are a complete and utter waste. Nothing can be more frustrating than to be asked to attend a meeting when you have a dozen things that have to be completed before 5 o’clock. Have you ever had that experience too?
If you are running a meeting, then you have ultimate control over what happens before during and afterwards. On the other hand, if you’re a participant, you may feel like you don’t have too much say in what happens during your meetings.
Here are a couple of things you can do to get others, including managers to think about the meetings they are requesting. Also, I’m going to share a strategy that might get you out of certain meetings at least some of the time
When were you intending to send the agenda for the meeting?
In my experience, many team and departmental meetings are not run well because they don’t have an agenda. And, if they do have an agenda it hasn’t been well thought out or provided to the participants at least 24 hours before the meeting commences.
When someone invites you to a meeting either verbally or by email, send them back a request for an agenda. Simply reply to the meeting request with an email that reads something like this.
“Hi John, I received a meeting request from you earlier. I got a fair bit on tomorrow and for the rest of the week. I’d like to put some thoughts into this meeting. Could you please send me your agenda before the close of business today.
If John has an agenda already prepared, he’s going to send it. This means that there’s a good chance the meeting is important, and it’s highly probable the meeting will be a well-run based on having an agenda. On the other hand, if there is no meeting agenda forthcoming, you can be pretty certain that the meeting will not be run as well as it should be.
At 5 o’clock send John another email. “John, I’m wrapping up shortly, I really need the agenda. I’ve got a stack of stuff on, and I want to make sure that on top of everything during tomorrow’s meeting. Can you please send this agenda to me now. Thank you”.
I’ll agree that this second email sent at 5 PM is a little more assertive. But when you think about it, you’re only asking for the agenda because you’re trying to value your time and everybody else’s time at the meeting.
Don’t be surprised if the person calling the meeting decide to cancel it at the last minute or suggest that if you’re busy to not attend.
It won’t take long for others in your organisation realise that if they want you to attend their meetings, they’ll need to make sure their meetings are well planned and organised.
Finally, if you do receive an agenda make sure you read over it and understand the reason you’ve been invited. If required, do some preparation to make sure you offer a positive contribution.
However, if you receive the agenda and aren’t quite sure why you need to be there, here is your opportunity of questioning the meeting organiser. You’re not trying to be a troublemaker, you’re simply trying to establish your reason for being invited.
If the truth is to be told, many people who are invited to meetings don’t actually need to be there. Just make sure there is a compelling reason why you need to be at other people’s meetings.