We've all experienced the soul-deadening boring meeting. In fact, unless someone is dedicated to making it otherwise, the boring meeting is a corporate staple. Be the first one on your block to end the meeting pain, by following these tips.
There's a scene in the movie Airplane, where Ted Striker is boring passenger after passenger with the story of why he became afraid to pilot airplanes and why he developed a drinking problem. One by one, his seatmates escape their misery of boredom — one by dousing herself with gasoline and then lighting a match.
Admittedly, that scene is over-the-top, but I think of it in every long, boring meeting I attend. No matter how gung ho you are to start with, some meetings can leave you desperate with boredom. The problem lies not with the point of the meeting but with the meandering sidebars. Here are some suggestions for keeping meeting pain at bay:
- Circulate an agenda in advance of the meeting
- E-mail copies of helpful reports and documents before the meeting. You don't want to waste meeting time waiting for participants to read through handouts. If you send documents beforehand, you can use meeting time to answer any questions about them. If you have to distribute a document during the meeting, keep it to one side of a sheet of paper.
- Consider getting status reports on sub-projects through e-mail before the meeting. Send the minutes from the previous week and ask for status updates from those who were tasked with a responsibility. This helps you reserve the actual meeting time for more complex issues that require discussion. Putting updates in writing might also help the participants stay on track with their parts of projects.
- Be on the lookout for digressions. The meeting leader should be hyper-alert for instances of the conversation drifting away. We've all been there. You start out talking about the data in a spreadsheet, somehow veer off into Excel's pitfalls, and end up talking about Microsoft's marketing strategy. For the one managing the meeting, it can sometimes be like herding cats, but the effort is worth it.
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Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.