Most of my posts work-related posts have been about scamming your way to success. This one is slightly different, and the first in a series of posts on meetings in a sort of followup to my #1 post of all time, 8 Types of Meeting Attendees.
The goal here is to get everyone to be a #8, "The productive, reasonable contributor."
- Have a goal.
I don't think agendas actually work, but the meeting will be much better if everyone agrees on the goals at the beginning. If you don't have any specific goals you should just go out for drinks.
- Have a leader.
One person should be in control of the meeting and decide what gets talked about. When that person says "let's move on" everyone should say ok and move on.
- Listen more than you talk.
If everyone does this the meeting will probably be productive. If one person talks the whole time it's a presentation, which is different. When everyone is listening at once and no one is talking you can end the meeting.
- Let people finish their thought.
When smart people talk they say unexpected things. You probably don't know what your colleague is going to say, so listen to the whole thing. If they say exactly what you expected then you wasted a few minutes, which is much better than making someone hate you.
- Don't interrupt.
Don't talk when someone else is talking. When you *do* talk people will listen much more closely. This is really hard, but when it works the meeting is extremely friendly and relaxed.
- Never ever roll your eyes.
If someone you work with makes you roll your eyes you should quit your job. Or try to have them fired. According to the pop-psychology book Blink the rolling of eyes is a sign of contempt, which is the worst emotion for any relationship.
- Speak slowly.
This will relax you and everyone else.
- End it when it's over.
At Vodafone we would have specification walkthroughs, in which someone would read an entire 50 page document to 10 people. They were often scheduled for two and a half hours. At some point, when people were sleeping, emailing, chatting with each other, someone would say "ok, lets just get through this." This is the death point of the meeting. Nobody was paying attention or contributing. The meeting was over, but nobody had the guts to kill it. They wanted to keep reading because they were supposed to keep reading. Kill it when it's dead.