As a follow-up to my post on Demeter’s ten ways to wreck an organization I have five areas that will destroy any meeting:
- Show up late! Unless an emergency occurs, you should always be on-time (if not a bit early) to a meeting. But usually the culprit is poor time management. Consistently arriving late implies to the participants (your manager, co-workers or other volunteers) that you are either extremely disorganized and/or don’t value the rules that everyone else follows. Scheduling back-to back meetings should be avoided at all costs. To prevent the first meeting, if it runs over, to encroach on the second meeting, try an odd starting time, such as 11:09 or 3:34 to get people’s attention.
- Talk without having anything to say! Some people talk just to hear themselves speak. They think that this raises their profile with the other members, but many times it does just the opposite. Be prepared; be succinct. Get across the necessary points and then quit speaking! Meetings are for communication and decision-making, not a personal stage!
- Bring “Toys!” Cell phones, laptops, and PDAs are common-place in today’s society, and it has been common-place for meeting participants to “play” rather than pay attention to what is happening in the meeting. Although some people do take notes on their PDA’s or on their laptops, too many read email or surf the internet rather than pay attention. And cell phones allow people to text-message others or answer a call and leave the room, missing out on the deliberations. Leave laptops at your desk or in your hotel room. Turn off cell phones until the meeting is over, or until a beak. Recently, I had to enforce this rule by passing around a box to collect everyone’s cell phones and “crackberrys” to physically separate them from their owner’s hands. It actually got the message across to the members.
- Have Side Conversations! Nothing disrupts a meeting more of on, two or more “sidebar” conversations competing with a speaker. Not only is it rude, it makes it extremely difficult to hear; and it tends to lengthen the meeting due to re-hashing the same conversations more than once.
- Don’t focus in the meeting! Believe it or not, I’ve been in meetings when members have read novels, flipped through catalogs, paid bills or balanced their checkbook while the meeting is underway. Multi-tasking in a meeting—even a somewhat dull meeting—might be tempting, but it’s extremely rude. And don’t think people don’t notice. And then there is the person that uses meetings for his after-lunch naps. I’m sure s/he gets a lot from the discussions.