As a disclosure, I hate meetings. They are soul sucking, productivity draining wastes of time. However, they are necessary and a predicate of macro-productivity. Meaning: they halt your productivity, but are essential for a companies. Therefore, they are necessary for you, and day after day, week after week, you suffer through them only to emerge on the other side with a headache and a pile of voicemail.
Meetings at my office are no different. We try, mind you, to have a good meeting environment. Tasteful mid-century modern sofas, a plasma screen, a Starbucks machine. Hell, even cupcakes from Sprinkles! But still, I go into a meeting armed with ammunition to fight the need to scream (PPC-6700 and maybe a sketchbook) and leave feeling like an empty shell of a person. And I decided to fight back.
Why are meetings bad:
1) Its Not Me Its You Factor (INMIYF): Meetings usually are a way to offset blame. Meetings typically involve people who don’t necessarily work together, but rely on each other, or report to a common boss. Hence, they provide an easy point of transmission of blame, as after a meeting is over, you return to separate corners.
2) The Kaplan Family Dinner Factor (KFDF): like my family, everyone thinks that what they have to say is really important. So they say it, regardless of who is also speaking, and at what volume they need to speak to get heard.
3) Digital Identity Maintenance Factor (DIMF): Exemplified by everyone on their Crackberry’s, relentlessly maintaining their digital identities while their real world one languishes under the strain of market statistics.
There are more factors, but those are the three that bug me the most. Meetings start fine, as status updates or just getting things out there. Then they go into each phase in turn until it disintegrates into lunch. That is two hours gone, never to return.
How to Fix Then
So last week I tried to mitigate these factors. I only succeeded on two of them, but it worked. Since lists are the things that get the diggs, here you go:
1) Mitigate Blame Through Constructive Comments (MBTCC): When people start the finger pointing, take the opposite approach. Don’t blame people, just use constructive questioning and socratic techniques to guide the conversation back to “how can this be fixed” from the “what the fuck went wrong” territory. You have to do this slowly, especially with different types of people. Some people are comfortable in blame mode, and taking them out of it can cause explosions. With those types, offeset the blame on a non-existent entity (I choose to blame marble, computers or made up words).
2) Talk Quietly, Quickly And Carry Big Words (TQQACBW): I call this the Professor Farnsworth factor. If you talk quietly, slowly and use words like “mitigate,” “extrapolation,” and other words not commonly heard in normal vernacular, people are forced to listen to you, as they think you are saying something Really Important. I do this often. I also speak pretty fast and my hair is all spiky and I wear black rim glasses, so I like to think I look nebbish and important. Or just geeky. Whatever it is, speaking quietly works. I’ve heard this technique works on little kids who get all yelly too.
3) Bring food! Cupcakes work.
4) Lastly, Come With an Agenda (CWA!): This is really important. I found that the best way to mitigate the Crackberry factor was to fill everyone’s hands with a self-important piece of paper. It didn’t mean anything, mind you. In fact the title was “Tech Meeting Agenda Type Thingy,” and it had just bullets of things I talked about. However, people like pretty letters and sans-serif fonts, so a piece of paper with both on it transfixed them enough so that the Crackberry’s were put away, and their vacant looks went toward a piece of paper that might, given the right circumstances, mean something.
So there you have it! My recipe for meetings. Tomorrow at 11:30AM, we have another one, and I shall use these techniques to make sure that the meeting is fruitful, informative, and positive in outcome. Think of this as the silver bullet, the holy water and cross for the vampires.
[tags]Productivity, meetings, work, how-to[/tags]