Meetings Suck: But do they have to?

Meetings are a regular occurrence at every company. The constant themes I hear from co-workers or employees are

  • Why do we meet so much?
  • If I am in meetings how can I get work done?
  • Why did I attend the meeting, I sat there and did work the entire time?

These are a few of the themes I have heard during my career. Many times management responds with:

  • I need to get status on the project
  • Great to get the team together
  • Keeps the team up to date

All the previously listed reasons are all true. Meetings are a great way to satisfy many a managers needs. But Everyone will not be satisfied with attending or not attending meetings. However, is there a way to balance the two. Recently, I read a book called Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold. In this book, the author detailed out the reason’s why meetings suck and offered potential solutions to the problem.

A high-level overview of the book is:

  • Know the personalities in the room
  • Allow employees to opt out of meetings ( A controversial topic)
  • All Meetings have agendas with time
  • Determine what time of meeting to have
  • Start & Stop On-time
  • Ban devices

After reading this book, I decided to try to determine if I could implement any of Cameron’s ideas with my team. I made a presentation aptly called “Meeting’s Suck” and gave it to my team.

The result was impressive, all of the employees seemed to be a bit more adept to allowing employees to opt out, agreed to meetings with agenda, iffy on types of meetings, were 100% on board with starting and ending meetings on time, lastly were highly against ban devices during sessions.

The management on my team wanted to skip most of the items on the list except starting and ending on time.

The results are as expected, but some of the reasoning behind not wanting to adopt/test Opt-Out or Banning devices was interesting. People started to opt out could cause someone to miss valuable information, especially if the meeting was moving faster or slower than expected. People also stated the meeting organizer should be inviting the right people to the meeting. Lastly, some of my team only take notes digitally, so not having their device was non-optional.

Here are my issues with their answers:

  • Opt Out - This gives people the ability to take control of their day and careers. Complaining you sat through a meeting that you did not need to attend is a waste of your time and the companies time. DO IT. It does take a mature person to opt out, and there is a fine line of opting out too much, but I think it is worth the risk.
  • Banning devices. Too often I see co-workers, employees, and even VPs cruising FB, Twitter, Slack, CNN, or anything but what is happening in the room. And ultimately they ask the dreaded question of can you repeat that again or say sorry I missed that. In a typical meeting, someone is providing an update with commentary from the team. Have a presenter and a note taker and focus on the topic at hand.

I think everyone should think long and hard about how they conduct their meetings. You never know if you are having too many.

Has anyone ever tried this? I would love to hear success or failure stories.