I hate meetings. Especially long ones.
Mostly they are a waste of time. They kill your productivity. They are just for talking not for taking actions. You just talk the talk, and you pretend like you are taking notes (who knows when will you check them) then you go back to your desk to continue working on your tasks, of course, if you have the needed energy to continue.
But from time to time, all of us has to attend some of them. And while we are there we should know how to behave ourselves and try to make the meeting as productive as possible and not waste anyone’s time.
Today, I was in a meeting and it was the most horrible one in my whole career (until this point at least).
Before I dig into the why was it the most horrible meeting ever let me give you a quick intro.
The meeting was dedicated and arranged for one single reason-first-quarter revision. Why I have highlighted this part? I will explain later on.
The meeting took off. It was an early one and everything was going well. We were checking our data, talking about our success rate in terms of achieving this goal, discussing what we did right and what we did wrong.
Eventually, after revising the data we started talking should we adjust our goal for the next quarter because we didn’t catch the current one. Still, everything pretty normal.
The meeting was going well and I also started practicing my communication-listening skills. I have an issue with really listening to others (I am actively trying to fix this issue) and now during this meeting for the first time, I thought I am doing really well.
I listened to everyone, understood them, appreciated their work and ideas and now it was my turn. I started with summarizing what can help us to achieve our second quarter goal when suddenly the meeting went off.
And here we go.
One of the our colleges came in the middle of the meeting. Yes, he came in the middle of the meeting.
Once he barged in, the meeting went in multiple directions and eventually he managed to officially qualify this meeting for the most horrible meeting in the career of all people that were attending it.
What made this meeting so horrible?
I will not go in details. I will just tell you what were the main mistakes that made this meeting horrible for everyone.
1. Entering in the middle of the meeting
The invitation was already sent to everyone. Everyone knew when was the meeting. Attending the meeting in the middle of it took our time because we had to explain what we already talked about. We started repeating ourselves and this is never a good thing.
2. Not checking the calendar
In every invitation, we write what is the topic of this meeting and what we will talk about. Okay, maybe you were late but you should check the purpose of the meeting. Otherwise, you will not be on the same page with others. (Did you get why I highlighted the meeting topic earlier?).
3. Changing the focus
When you have no clue what the meeting is about, you can jump from one topic to another. Exactly this happened at that meeting. There should be only one reason why you decided to organize the meeting about and when someone tries to jump to another topic, this person should be warned and you should navigate back to the focus of the meeting.
4. Asking wrong questions
When you know the purpose of the meeting, all the questions you will ask should be related to that purpose. Otherwise, you will waste the time of others by asking wrong and pointless questions and on top of it expecting answers for them.
In our meeting, the purpose was to evaluate our current goals and discuss our future steps. But our college was asking the wrong questions. He was constantly talking about other issues which were not related to the meeting topic at all.
When it isn’t your turn to talk, you should listen. When you ask a question to another person and expect an answer, you should wait for the other side to finish. You should never interrupt anyone. Otherwise, there is no point in asking questions and awaiting answers. Actually, there is no point in having a meeting at all.
6. Not listening
Like I mentioned earlier, listening is the key to a healthy conversation. Everyone wants to be heard and everyone has the right to say something. When someone is talking, you should respect that person and listen carefully.
Work on your listening skills.
If you are not a good listener, let me tell you what you can expect.
By not carefully listening to others, you will continue listening to yourself. Eventually, you will take up only parts of the conversation and you will misunderstand what the other person actually wanted to say.
While one person will try to say something, another one will understand a totally different thing.
So, what can you expect? A mess, this is what you can expect.
8. Not finishing the meeting on time
A meeting should be a maximum of 45 minutes. And you should finish it at the right time. It can be less but it can’t be more. Not even 5 minutes. I know this is hard to do but every team should practice it. Set an alarm and when it goes off, don’t snooze it.
After this time passes, don’t expect any efficiency and healthy decisions.
In this meeting, I tried many times to finish that meeting and every time I tried to do that, interruptions blocked me. He didn’t even let me finish the meeting.
9. Not eliminating noisy space
We have an open office environment. We have also a meeting room but since everyone has to attend that meeting we just decided doing it from our own places.
Everyone was talking from their desk. In the middle of the meeting, one of our colleges started having a Skype call (in a very loudly manner. Even though he was one of the attendees, he chose to answer this skype call.). I suggested that we should go to the meeting room so this conversation will not disturb us. But, our college said: “it is ok we can hear each other” (even though eventually he realized that it was a wrong decision after he didn’t hear even his own voice).
When you have something important to discuss, you should do it in the right environment. That’s why the meeting room exists.
10. Leaving the meeting when you don’t like what you hear
No one should leave the meeting. This is very respectful. And if this person is one of the managers or C level, this is something else. This happened to us at this meeting.
First, our college was late. Second, he didn’t know the purpose of the meeting. Third, he was asking the wrong questions. Fourth, he was interrupting us. And on top of it when he didn’t like what the meeting was all about, he left the meeting.
It was like, I destroyed everything and now you have to clean up the mess.
When we finished the meeting, I checked the time and it was already lunchtime. I look at all my colleges’ faces. I saw how much the meeting was horrible for them. It was a vampire meeting.
This meeting took the whole team’s energy. No one couldn’t do anything after it. The funniest thing that happened at the end of the meeting, one of our college asked: “Should we adjust next quarter goal or not? What did we decide?”
Everyone was laughing. At least we had something to laugh at the end:)