5 Great Ways To Make Sure Your Staff Hates Your Meeting

Meetingitis: Having so many meetings that you can’t get your work done. –The Urban dictionary

It’s no secret, the information age is about meetings. Meetings to plan next week’s activities, meetings to review last week’s activities, meetings to review the previous meeting and plan the next one. It is unending!

Meetings have a real cost, which tends to be ignored. EffectiveMeetings.com has a meeting cost calculator, which allows you to determine the annual cost of holding meetings. It shows that for a small company holding 2-hour meetings with 5 people five times per week, the annual cost is $65,000.

However, what about the cost in lost productivity? If a programmer is totally engrossed in his work but needs to interrupt it to attend a meeting, there is an extra cost to consider: the time it will take that programmer to get back to his previous level of concentration.

Meetings can be useful but are often unproductive because the participants feel as though very little has been accomplished. The worst offenders are the recurring meetings that eventually tend to become routine more than anything else. There may not be much to discuss but the meeting is held anyway, because that’s just the way it is.

Take time to evaluate whether you are holding too many meetings and suffering from meetingitis. If you aren’t, see if the current meetings suffer from any of these meetingitis signs.

1. No agenda available

One of the biggest time wasters is not having an agenda for a meeting. Instead of focusing immediately on the issue at hand, part of the meeting is used up to create an agenda on the spot.

Having no agenda for a meeting is a warning sign that the meeting may not be useful.
One common excuse for not providing the meeting agenda is the time required to prepare it. This pales in comparison to the collective time taken to set up the meeting with 10 people in the meeting room.

The solution: Have an agenda ready at least 24 hours before a meeting and make sure all the attendees receive it beforehand. The agenda should contain all of the expected outcomes of each point, as well as the name of the person accountable for that point. Make it a point to follow up with the meeting minutes and the actions expected to be taken.

2. Straying off-topic

There’s no point in having an agenda if you don’t stick to it. Meetings have a tendency to take on a life of their own if they are not held in check. This can take several forms:

  • Attendees come in with their own agenda. For example, you have a meeting scheduled to discuss the various benefits of three service offerings from your providers. However, some members of your technical staff are not interested in any of the solutions and want to create their own in-house tool based on open source software. Instead of discussing the merits of the commercial offerings, they argue that another option should be considered and they try to veer discussions toward this new option.
  • Discussions on a topic derail. You plan to address issues with production servers, but discussions center around an improper test plan that should have uncovered problems earlier.
  • Attendees lack discipline. During the meeting, people blurt out numerous jokes, there are constant side conversations, and so on.
  • All of these behaviors affect the overall meeting atmosphere and can cause it to drag on, or can prevent it from attaining its stated goal, thereby wasting every one’s time.
    The solution: To maintain the effectiveness of a meeting, assign one person as the chair. The chair’s responsibility is to pay attention to the discussions and bring them back on topic to ensure that the issues are dealt with appropriately.