I attended a business meeting over the weekend; actually I attended two! One was business like and well run, decisions were made and responsibilities delegated … the other was a waste of time.

You know there are some meetings that should be held, and others that are a complete waste of time. And then there are the meetings that are not really a meeting but end up as one.

The one that starts with “We need to get together to talk about …” is a good example. It usually is instigated by a telephone call, although I have been summoned to one while walking down a corridor! The main characteristic of this non-meeting is its lack of preparation. No-one is prepared to discuss the topic (that is if the topic has been defined) and there is no background information or consideration of the required outcomes. Often the participants have merely been ‘rounded up’ and may have no idea as to why they are there. They can leave in the same state too.

These meetings are often an outcome of someone’s procrastination. They may have been given a task and they have just realised that the dead-line is approaching and nothing has been done… and panic. Calling a meeting to discuss the topic can create an illusion of action!

If you find yourself in this situation (and who hasn’t?) at least give some time to consider who needs to be there, and then phone or email them two or three days prior to the meeting so that they can be prepared. You’re still creating the illusion of action, but this time you might actually get some.

Another type of meeting which is really a non-starter is the one held round the coffee table or water fountain. You know, the one that starts “I’m glad to see you, I wanted to discuss …” Now, you may be fantastically busy and have just grabbed a couple of minutes to refresh the brain, and here’s this person who wants to conduct a meeting at the water fountain.

Best plan of action is to get in quick, and tell them that you are busy, and arrange a definite time to ring them about the topic. Hopefully that will allow you to grab your drink and return to your project. But make a note to remind you to get back to them as soon as you are finished.

What about the meeting that is called to discuss one topic that may be important and a decision maybe needed? Put against the cost of calling the meeting it may be necessary to decide if there are more efficient ways of obtaining the required results, such as conference calling. Calling a formal meeting may not always be the most cost effective way of decision making.

And finally there the ‘Can’t make your mind up Meeting”. While they may contain important topics, the majority of the time is taken up with discussion rather than decision. Minor and low priority matters become the chief talking points and the important topics are buried under a plethora of minutia.

Clear agendas should solve this problem, and a chairman well versed in meeting procedure. Discussion is addictive but may not be productive. Focussing on the important stuff is essential if we are not going to be wasting a lot of time.

Business Meetings are important and need to be properly planned, Non-meetings are a nuisance that should be banished from the agenda.

Oh how I wished I could have stood up and said that at one of the meetings I attended over the weekend. Discussion developed into dissent, dissent dropped into disharmony and it was on for young and old! I ended up with a headache and all I wanted was a glass of water!

Michele & Trischel

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