By Jeff Beals
Comedian Fred Allen once quipped, “A committee is a group of men, who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done.”
Few things cause professionals to roll their eyes in disgust more than a disorganized, unnecessary meeting. In today’s business world, there are simply too many meetings. A significant portion of the meetings we attend are simply unnecessary. Even if a meeting is needed, the majority of time during that meeting is filled with unnecessary content.
The first step in escaping the meeting trap is to avoid meetings whenever possible. If you are in charge, try to find ways that your people can be empowered to make individual decisions at the lowest level possible. Good organizations should expect professional team members to keep each other informed, but for the most part, they should be encouraged to behave as confident individuals.
If your presence is not essential, try to get out of going. Don’t go to meetings just for the sake of making your calendar look more impressive. If you don’t have an active role in the meeting, and assuming your boss isn’t ordering you to attend, try to get out of it. Professional success is measured by results, power, influence, impact on the world and compensation, not by the number of meetings you attend each week.
If you must go, there are ways of making it more efficient. If you are leading the meeting, create an agenda in advance. Stick to the agenda and don’t allow participants to stray too far from it. Use good meeting facilitation techniques to keep it moving. You will have to periodically bring people back when they go off on verbal tangents.
When I must attend a meeting in which I do not have an active role, I bring paperwork with me or handle emails on my phone. I sit in the corner or back of the room and am productive while the meeting is going on. If you do this discreetly, most people won’t mind.
This is not to say all meetings are bad. In an era of business when collaboration is important, we need face-to-face time. The key is to make meetings valuable.
Otherwise you can “meeting” yourself to death and start to live like a politician. Nobody goes to more meetings than a politician as attested by these poignant quotes:
“I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting.” – President Ronald Reagan
“Congress seems drugged and inert most of the time… its idea of meeting a problem is to hold hearings, or in extreme cases, to appoint a commission.” – Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm
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Jeff Beals delivers presentations to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. Presentations are adapted to fit your organization’s goals and can be keynote speeches (30 to 90 minutes) or workshops (two to four hours) covering the following topics:
- “Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One”
- “Tons of Room at the Top: the Attitude of Success”
- “National Signing Day: Sales, Marketing & Personal Branding Lessons from College Football”