How To Zoom Through Your Meetings

Or zoom out of your job

With a lot of luck, a garnish of garlic and a wooden stake or two, we can finally go back to…

…in-person meetings!

Maybe I got that wrong. Maybe it should be: With a lot of luck, a garnish of garlic and a wooden stake or two, we can finally kill off (unnecessary) meetings.

Not matter which one applies to you, I offer the following thoughts to make your next meeting less of a nonsense event.


Feel compelled to meet. Or not.

Just another typical, boring meeting. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

Meetings, meetings, bl… boring meetings. Are you also tired of unproductive meetings? Here’s how to get out of them, constructively.

But first, let’s define unproductive meeting. It depends. Meetings can be useful, but not necessarily useful in equal measure to all attendees. Some will find the meeting more effective than others.

Want to know before the meeting which camp you fall into? Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t attend? And what good can I do if I do attend?”

If your answers are trivial, then ask the meeting convener the same questions. “What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t attend? And what do you expect me to contribute if I do attend?”

If the convener cannot give you compelling reasons, then stay away.

However, if the convener is your boss, and the compelling reason is “you keep your job”, then by all means attend. As we say in the classics, you will live to meet another day.


Meet to make your point quickly

What happens when your 60 seconds are up. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

Many years ago I did my first radio broadcast as a stand in for Dr Wally Johnston. His instructions were simple, yet brutal. I had 60 seconds to make my point. No more. No less.

In making the recordings, I experienced an unknown law of nonsense. It feels much longer to listen to a 60-second-recording than it takes to speak it! When you must say something meaningful within a specified time limited, time speeds up and you run out of seconds before you run out of words.

I now understand what Blaise Pascal meant when he wrote to a friend: “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”

Having 60 seconds on air taught me something I wish everybody would apply in meetings. Have a point, make it and shut up.

Of course, the only way to get that right is to prepare before the meeting, not in the meeting.


Your ignorance should engage you, not glaze you

What to do when you have little of import to impart. (free public domain: clipart-people.com)

Here’s a funny thing about executive meetings. Trivial decisions often take longer to resolve than critical issues. Is the car policy really more important than customer complaints?

I think executives, like us, argue for hours about carpet colors, desk sizes, and chair designs because these are physical objects that we all understand. But when it comes to the big issues of real business, then we know there are people in the room who are more expert than us.

And so we keep quiet instead of staying involved. Our fear of sounding ignorant shuts us down instead of firing us up.

As an executive, you should get fired up when a strategic issue is tabled that you know little about. Your ignorance should engage you, not glaze you.

If the issue will have a big impact on results, then get fired up! If it will not, shut up!

Correct. The last point applies to all meetings, with or without executives.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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