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Monday, March 22, 2010

DOUGLAS CASTLE RANTS: Meetings (gasp!): Kill or Cure? How to Have Great Ones

Meetings (gasp!): Kill or Cure? How to Have Great Ones.

Somebody has called a meeting.

You don't know what to do...

Can you come up with a plausible excuse for not attending? Do you quickly down a double shot of espresso, hold your nose and just go? Have you learned to sleep with your eyes open? Will you know when to go "mmm, Hmm,"? Will you nod your head at the same time? Can you discreetly send text messages and get some "real" work done while some egomaniac drones on? Have you prepared an excuse for why you haven't gotten your project accomplished, in the event that someone asks you about your (gulp) status?

If the meeting is in-person, it's going to be a challenge. If the meeting is done by teleconference, don't lie down on the courch with your phone in the crook of your neck if your prone to bouts of snoring.

Facing facts, meetings can be amazingly productive and energizing, or they can be as pleasurable as oral root canal surgery. The latter is usually the case: everyone generally dreads them, except for the moderator or organizer, who desperately craves attention - sometimes it is because his parents didn't show him adequate love; sometimes, it's because he has learned a witty new joke, and wants to try it out on a captive audience; most of the time it is because he has been taught that "meetings are necessary."
The attendees either participate because a) they have also been taught that "meetings are necessary," or because b) if they don't attend, they're afraid that everyone else will be talking about them, or because c) if they don't attend they will be fired, or because d) they have accidentally wandered into the wrong room at some convention center and have (to their horror) emerged through the door right in front of the podium.

The Fact: Meetings can be either fabulous or monstrous. If they are fabulous, they will get your team to its objective in quantum leaps. If they are monstrous, your audience will become de-motivated, unresponsive and resentful.

The Rule: For a meeting to be *fabulous*, it must be purposeful, focused, action-oriented and businesslike. It cannot be one second longer than is necessary.

A Great meeting must be more like a football huddle and less like an 8:00am university graduate-level lecture on organic chemistry. A bad meeting does damage --- in terms of time, credibility and motivation.

The Guidelines: Want great meetings? Here are the necessary ingredients:

1. Have a specified purpose (an objective to be accomplished) for the meeting;

2. Announce the meeting well in advance, with a reminder immediately before;

3. Distribute a bullet-point memorandum identifying the purpose, the time and place, and a specific agenda, with definitive items;

4. Start the meeting promptly;

5. Allocate specific amounts of time for the coverage of each agenda item. The leader of the meeting should moderate the discussion;

6. Stay focused and true to the agenda - any diversions from the agenda must be sidelined for another time or an offline conversation if they are not beneficial to the whole group or if they are not directly relevant to the agenda item under discussion;

7. Maintain order;

8. Assign specific tasks to specific individuals with specific timeframes for their completion and status reporting. Gain each tasked individual's agreement and commitment right then and there, in full witness of the group;

9. End the meeting promptly;

10. Distribute a memorandum (not more than 2 pages, please) which restates each agenda point, each decision, each tasked person, each timeframe, and a "thank you," within two days following the meeting.

Of course, every meeting requires a thorough F.U. ("follow up")

Remember: Meetings, like pencils, are dull when they are pointless.

Remember: Meetings that are informal, feel-good, everybody-meet-everybody-else, "how ya doin'," "whatcha workin' on?" or are "regular" meetings (i.e., mandated but without agendas), should not be meetings at all. They are unnecessary. Have lunches, dinners, parties, pep rallies and networking events instead, where these things are appropriate and can be savored.

Meetings are business tools. Think of them that way and use them that way.

Meetings are either a waste of time, or an investment of time. Think of them and use them that way.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, this meeting is adjourned.


Douglas Castle

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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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