Meeting. A verb that has become a noun in the corporate world. Grammar trivia: Such words are called Gerunds. Okay okay, am not showing off. Coming back to meetings. Meetings are an essential part of corporate life. It is the time to solve problems, discuss ideas and agree on the path to be taken.
Meetings are also the biggest contributor to unproductive time, especially long and disorganised ones. In a meeting room crammed with too many people with too many things to discuss, you can hope for half of them to participate. The other half would be busy doing something else for sure. Here are some rules for meetings I try to follow.
- Plan meetings well in advance. Now advance here depends on the industry and country you work in. However, it is safe to plan a 30 – 60 minute meeting one day in advance. Any longer and you should be giving them 3-4 days to plan their schedule. In case you need people for the whole day, send a note at least 1-2 weeks in advance. It is okay if you don’t have all the details yet, send a placeholder so that they can keep themselves free for the tentative dates. Respect people’s time and their availability. We can never take for granted that people will attend a meeting anytime we call for it.
- Use calendars. Most corporates would have a calendar application. It is a part of the email software generally. On a calendar you can view people’s availability. So block a slot that is free. Avoid blocking lunch hours. It is impolite.
- If you are setting up a meeting, follow these
- Invite only those absolutely necessary. Other people can be added as option. Also point this out in the invite
- Add a proper subject to the invite. If there is a background in terms of email trail, attach that. In case a document or a slide pack is to be discussed, attach that. If it is a demo with a websharing, add the link in the invite.
- Call out the location or bridge details in the mail. Ensure there is no confusion about this. Specify if this is an in-person or virtual meeting. In case of a virtual meeting, let them know if they can attend while on the move (a telephone call only) or will need to be stationary (video call / screen shared)
- Mention an agenda. Clearly specify what will be discussed. Stick to only that. If the discussion veers off course, you can bring it back.
- Respond to meeting requests. You could be a critical stakeholder in a meeting. If you are unavailable to attend, the organiser can reschedule. It will be a waste of everyone’s time if the rest of them assemble and can’t proceed without you. You wouldn’t want that to yourself now. Would you?
- Always prepare before a meeting. Read the invite, it typically has details about what the meeting is all about. If there are attachments, glance through them. It is okay if you have not read the entire 50 pager. Be sure to read the summary and be familiar with it.
- In case of an audio conference, login one-two minutes before time. Call out your name clearly while joining. Joining a call without announcing yourself is akin to eavesdropping. It is extremely impolite and unprofessional. In case this is a first call for a project or there are people you don’ know well then introduce yourself. It can be as short as your full name and department. That ways, people will be able to associate with you. No one likes to listen to a disembodied voice!
As you can see, I can go on and on about meetings… so I will just stop here…!