Meeting Creep

I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve been in a meeting that stayed on topic and ended on time.

I found myself in a meeting this afternoon that did not meet the above parameters. Even when it was on topic it was excruciatingly inefficient. People repeat themselves and repeat themselves and repeat themselves. It’s as though they don’t believe that you heard them the first time so they’re going to make sure you do.

Or maybe my other theory of meetings is more accurate: people love meetings so they can hear their own voice in a group setting. Personally, I try not to talk in meetings unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the pain is prolonged.

Don’t get me wrong, meetings are useless and should be banned. Don’t get me wrong, meetings have their place. Sometimes they’re even necessary. I just think they need to be constrained to the following criteria:

  1. Don’t schedule meetings. They’re generally a waste of time. At the very least, ask yourself if the meeting is needed. Can you accomplish the same outcome with a well crafted email? Or even a poorly crafted email. I’m not picky, just don’t make me go to a meeting.
  2. No meeting should ever last longer than 30 minutes. If you can’t get the work done in that amount of time, then you need time management training.
  3. Meetings should only be held in the late afternoon. Meetings disrupt the work day. It can be very difficult to get back into the swing of things after a boring meeting. At least a late afternoon meeting only disrupts the late afternoon which is a less than productive time of day for most employees anyway.
  4. All meetings should ascribe to the DRY principle. Do not Repeat Yourself. Anyone caught repeating a point they already made should be told to sit in the corner. If people didn’t get your point the first time, that means it was stupid or totally irrelevant.
  5. Meetings should have an extremely narrow topic.
  6. Meetings should never get off topic. This is known (by me) as meeting creep. Nobody cares if everyone in your department got new chairs, you got a new phone, your dog died or you’ve lost weight. All of that and more can wait until your next google chat exchange with your friend two cubicles from yours.
  7. Two people should not dominate the meeting unless doing so will get the meeting over much quicker. Two people talking is called a conversation which can be done over the phone or via email. Don’t subject others to your own conversations. We just don’t care that much.
  8. Finally, the next meeting should never be scheduled during the current meeting. There should be a federally mandated waiting period between the current meeting and the scheduling of a new one. This is also known as a cooling off period during which people can reconsider if another meeting is actually needed. It usually isn’t.

Follow the above rules and you’ll have much happier meeting attendies. If you’re the attendie, try handing the rules list to the meeting organizer. It probably won’t do any good but it’ll make you feel better.

In a future post I hope to provide you with a meeting survival kit in case you do find yourself in a “creepy” meeting that’s gone on too long and doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight. Until then, avoidance is your best defense.