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Meetings as a Form of Collaboration

June 30, 2009

Meetings.  What a time sink, and yet the need for collaboration requires having meetings.  I participated in a meeting that was scheduled for 30 minutes.  It in fact continued for 90 minutes, and had to be rescheduled for a second session because we still didn’t get to our deliverables.

Right.  And you probably have to sit through a lot more of those than I do. Collaboration through meetings is no easy task to master, is it?  That’s part of the reason you need to use software like ManagePro for meeting management, but that’s another conversation.  Back to the topic.

It got me thinking (I usually start thinking about a way to reframe things or alternative options when things get frustrating) about ways to reinvent meetings to save us all a lot of time.  I’ll share 3 of them – let me know what you think.

1.  Meetings should only treat participants as blind if, in fact, they are so. E.g. Don’t read out loud what’s written – drop the microphone and let the participants read it in 1/10th the time it will take you to verbally walk through the points.  The meeting will already being moving faster.

2.  Don’t tie up the podium when you can manipulate data. If you want feedback, let people write/key it in.  Update the presentation document in real time.  Get to the data in an interactive manner. Move from thought to data, instead of going through voice as much as you can… you have to get to data input at some point, get there faster.  Try running meetings with the mute on…

3.  Start from the ending and work your way back.  I notice a number of people define the outcome for the meeting, and then engage in a pace or process that has no hope, absolutely no hope, of reaching that outcome within the alloted time. The best way I know to work backwards in a meeting is to be super honest about what you can accomplish in the time allotted and then live with those limitations.  It’s not the federal budget, you can’t spend what you don’t have without immediate repercussions.

Bottom Line:
1. Participants should read, not listen, we’re not blind.
2. Interact with the data as much as possible, not once removed by conversation.
3. Start from the end, treat time like money, and realize this is not the federal budget, you can’t print the stuff when you run out.


Meeting Management – an Untapped area in IT Management Systems

Meetings are a Matter of Precious Time

2 Comments. Leave new

David Coleman
July 20, 2009 11:04 am


Meetings are a form of collaboration, and I agree with you that most meetings are not done well and can be great time wasters. some of the ways I have found to make meetings more productive are:
1- Make sure the people that need to be in the meeting are there, or are at least available at a distance. This often requires the ability to do “presence detection” (which many web conferencing tools do) some programs can even tell if you are on/off hook through the SIP protocol.
2- I find meetings to go over data are often not necessary. I find a good virtual team space tool which has a way to attach discussions to objects (documents, or some kind of complex information). I find these online discussions can be good for status or updating (like with a project team) and that meetings, either face-to-face or virtual are best to deal with issues that come up. The reason is that different collaboration tools are able to convey emotion to a greater or lesser degree, and it is important to use the correct tool based on what you want to get across. Information or data is easy to deal with online where there is no emotional content, but issues, which can be interpersonal and emotional in nature are often better to do on the phone (tone of voice, etc.) or in person.

If you do meet in person, I agree with you, don’t go over information is already available online and something those in the meeting have already looked at. What I have found useful is to provide a URL if people want to look back at a document or go over the online discussion.

3- A good meeting agenda can help with putting too much into a meeting and running over. I tend to do this myself quite often, and have found that whatever agenda I make for a meeting, I should probably cut it in half. Also at the beginning of the meeting it is good to go over the agenda and get agreement not only about the topics and order, but also about how much time it will take for each agenda item. If I am concerned about time, I often ask someone in the meeting to be time keeper and let us know when the time for that topic or item is finishing.

I believe that starting and stopping meetings on time, not only alleviates a lot of wasted time, but it is also a sign of respect for all those people in the meeting. So I do agree with your statement about treating time like money. When you go over time in a meeting that is like time debting, and like the federal government, you leave the meeting with a time deficit (like a deficit budget), and have to figure out a way to make up that time later. However, the time debt is not just yours, but is carried by everyone in the meeting.

I agree with your point about interaction also. People tend to “own” a task, topic or issue, more if they are a participant in the next step or the overall outcome. Even if they did not do anything to complete the task, if they helped with decisions they still feel some sense of ownership. This is a great way to be successful on a project, if all the team members have some sense of ownership.


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