I myself have been through a lot of these meetings and I keep seeing all these behavioral posts that tell us to actually pay attention in them. And while this is true, I thing the meeting organizers should also be aware of WHY people start playing Angry Birds, doze off, gaze into the distance, stare into the abyss, look for places where they can hang themselves from or all of the above.
Somewhere back in time I was part of this project where the client had no regard whatsoever for the endless hours and days wasted in meetings. The project itself was a waste of time, with technologies used eons ago, having to modify the browser to mimic versions of itself from the beginning of the 2000s and various other hacks. But that’s not the point. When things got a bit rough, with the client being on site for like two months, everything went from bad to almost unbearable (as a fun fact, from the nearly 20 people working together in 2 teams way back then, only 3 or 4 still work at the same company…and this all happened 2 years ago, so it’s not that long).
During those 2 months, the daily meeting stretched from 15 minutes to about 45 (45 MINUTES, and don’t forget, there were two teams, each with it’s own separate meeting). Each and every member started to get invited to these conference calls which lasted a minimum of 2 hours. And even though we were at our desks and could potentially work on other tasks, we could not concentrate to the fullest. And the worst part of all of this is that some of these conference calls were spontaneous and we had to immediately stop what we were doing in order to join them. Add this to the 60-70 mails I usually found in the morning in my inbox and you could realize the amount of useless information I had to endure.
The point I am trying to make is that you can’t possibly ask someone to pay attention in a meeting if the meeting has no direction or purpose. If you’re just going to endlessly talk about something (or nothing, for the most part), don’t expect any reasonable human being to be at your disposal for longer than say half an hour?
Meetings can be useful, but they have to have the following:
- an agenda
- a clear topic of discussion
- a set duration
- a person to keep the meeting on track when the inevitable chit chat and dwelling ensues
If you don’t care about my time, why in the world should I care about yours ?