Are Your Meetings Metastasising? Here’s The Cure

Meetings tend to proliferate as organisations grow, but in-the-room ones are limited by… rooms. As our meetings go remote, and that physical constraint is removed, it seems the number of meetings can quickly get out of control. 

That’s just maths, apparently. (Read more on this in my recent blog post.) 

As the time available for preparation diminishes, the quality of each meeting tends to go downhill. People become more and more accustomed to poor-quality remote meetings. They have low expectations. They don’t think it’s worth preparing. They accept meeting requests when they know they can’t give each one their full attention, expecting to be able to “multitask”… and so their next meeting seems poor, too.  

It sometimes feels like “meeting metastasis” is choking the life out of individuals, teams and organisations. The opposite of the Agile creative collaboration we say that we want.

So, what can you do about it? An important thing to note is that you are not a powerless victim in this process.

Meetings, even remote, online meetings – and even the mostly-horrible hybrid meetings, where some people are together and some remote – aren’t an evil, mysterious, unstoppable force.

They’re much more like simple bacteria, limitable with a quick squirt of detergent.

And, like those “friendly” gut bacteria we hear so much about, in the remote meetings can be positively beneficial.

Let’s stop the spread of the bad ones:

  • Stop automatically saying “yes” to meetings! Before you accept an invitation, ask for clarity. What’s the purpose of the meeting?  Why have you, specifically, have been invited? What role you are expected to play?
  • Start preparing thoroughly for the meetings you do attend. If reports etc have been sent out, read them. Have a note of your questions and comments easily to hand – or even share them ahead of the meeting itself.
  • Engage actively throughout any meeting you attend. As Nancy Kline put it, “The quality of your attention can determine the quality of another person’s thought.” 
  • Take responsibility for your part of the online meeting space. Turn your video camera on, use a headset, call from a quiet place and get some light on your face. (Try a selfie light.)

And encourage the good ones:

  • Feed the organisers of better remote meetings with feedback! Tell them, as specifically as you can, what worked for you about the meeting.
  • Gather and share up-to-date good-remote-meeting tips. (Hint: Articles that advocate a strict agenda, no side conversations etc belong in the 1990s.) 
  • Help your tech-phobic colleagues to get their part of the online meeting space working well, so that everyone has a richer experience. 

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