Meetings are battles – and this is how you win them
Meetings. We all attend them at varying frequencies, and there’s a good chance we hate the majority of them. Why? Because we don’t win many enough of them – or because they are irrelevant to us. Thankfully, a few simple remedies can cure your meeting ailments.
Preparation is everything
First of all, consider whether your presence is truly required in any given meeting. Does it align with your short-term and/or long-term goals? Will you get something you need out of it? Does another attendee require something from you which cannot be proffered in any other way?
You will be surprised (and possibly slightly offended) as to how easily you can be disposed of – at which point you simply pull the ejection cord or delegate. Remember; wars, pointless or not, can only be waged with two parts on the battlefield, which makes rendering yourself persona non grata a very good idea indeed.
Should the decision rest with your superior, prepare your case based around the argument that you will make better progress on your assigned tasks – which, incidentally, is the truth.
Official meeting minutes – which only unprofessional meeting managers do not keep – will let you keep up with the gist of things, and if you require more information you can inquire directly with the appropriate holder of such.
Rules of engagement
If you must attend, it is with meetings as it is in war: preparation is everything. Before entering into a meeting, you should have a clear outline of no more than three goals; the persons who will decide whether you achieve them; and whose support you will or may require. If you know you’re in for a fight, seek out these people prior to the meeting and argue your case to win support.
The reason I draw the line at three goals is twofold. First of all, you will run out of passion by number four – and if you need to take on more than three fights per meeting, you are officially overtaxed. Second, anything more will likely imbalance the meeting in a manner which could attract dislike; being a winner is preferential to being a nuisance. Remember: guerilla warfare, in which the battle is won outside the traditional battlefield, also has its tactical advantages.
If the meeting is recurring, there is a good chance at least some parts of it are redundant. If so, challenge the status quo openly yet respectfully; more likely than not, the majority of the participants share your interest in improving the work-meetings balance. Essentially, meetings are about getting what you want, and then getting the hell out of dodge. Everyone will approve the compressed version.
The aftermath of war
Remember this; in war, history is writ by the victor. Regardless of whether you lost or won the battle, there is a war to be won – and intelligence is crucial in the long-term perspective. Inquire as to when the meeting minutes will be issued, and make any proposals for inclusion or exclusion of information there and then – doing so afterwards can be interpreted as an ambush. Noone likes those.
Then, you need 15 minutes to debrief yourself and make your own notes, which should be kept as extensive as you deem necessary. This serves two purposes, the first of which is to allow for the summarization and integration of any new tasks you may have contracted (yes, I use the word deliberately) into your existing workflow – complete with details which – more likely than not – will be absent from the meeting minutes.
Furthermore, this presents an opportunity to unload information from your brain, where it only serves to cause distress. And lastly, provided the meeting was favourable and productive, there is a good chance you are uniquely primed for a short burst of creativity which should be exploited; fresh ideas may have come forth for which the meeting was not a proper arena of exploration – now is the time to jot them down before they’re forgotten, along with all the other details.
Lastly; avoid booking meetings back-to-back as you would the bubonic plague. Sans preparation and post-summarization, you are essentially converting a possible opportunity into a sinkhole for your time, energy and attention. If you have ever attempted a detailed recollection of the first meeting after knocking down three meetings back-to-back, you will know that this categorizes as a Fail.