A Disgruntled Meeting Attendee Breaks His Silence

For all of us who dread that “Meeting Invitation” ding on our office computer.

Fine. I’ll be the one to say it.

Please stop calling so many [censored for publication] meetings.

We all have plenty of work to do, and that work isn’t getting itself done while we’re crammed in a conference room arguing over whether “Technical Support” or “Technical Care” presents a better image to the public. (They don’t care.)

Besides, don’t we communicate with each other enough throughout the day? We’ve got email, landline phones, cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging, an employee wiki, a department blog. The other day I found myself sitting in the bathroom text messaging a coworker — clearly another victory for “creating boundaries.” Bottom line: If I need to talk with Jake in HR, I think I can find a way to reach Jake in HR.

Hey, I’m all for team bonding. And I realize that a lot of knowledge-transfer and creativity happens when employees get together in person to discuss important issues. (I’m sure, for example, that the “Technical Care” brainstorm could never have happened at someone’s desk.)

But can’t we find a better way? Can’t we find a way to work together as a team without having to waste long hours at pastry-laden gatherings in the conference room? Short of that, can’t we at least find a way to make our meetings run more smoothly?

Maybe we can. I’ve written a few suggestions below for more productive meetings. I also hope these tips will keep our meetings shorter — so I can get back to my desk and deal with the 25 new emails, 4 text messages, 2 voicemails and 6 instant messages I’ve received since the meeting started.

My ideas for better meetings:

  • If you’re planning to speak up, and you’re going to start with, “This might be a stupid idea, but…” maybe it’s worth a second thought. It sounds harsh, I know, but sometimes that thing that sounds ridiculous in your head… will also sound ridiculous out loud.
  • Stop bringing doughnuts. We’re already fat, thanks. Besides, feeding everyone removes the one piece of leverage we have against the runaway meeting — hunger.
  • No chairs. Now that I think of it, here’s another way to keep our meetings short and to the point. No one is going to monologue for a half-hour if they have to stand the whole time. Brilliant, right?
  • Please stop using PowerPoint. Look, if your slide has a bullet that reads, “Q1 objective: improve customer service,” then chances are you’re just going to stand next to it and say, “So, our Q1 objective is to improve customer service.” How many ways do you think we need to receive that information?
  • Don’t list anyone on your invitee list as “Optional.” Either they belong there or they don’t. In fact, if you’re organizing the meeting you should have to include a one-sentence statement explaining why each invitee is actually “Required” to attend. And if you can’t, you shouldn’t be able to invite them.

If you’d like to discuss this matter or have additional ideas of how we can improve our meetings, please shoot me an email, or send me a text, or instant message me, or leave me a voicemail, or post a message for me on the department intranet. I probably won’t be able to respond for a few hours, though. You know how it is — back-to-back meetings.

About the Author

Robbie Hyman is a professional communications and public affairs writer. He has 15 years’ experience writing for nonprofits, small business and multibillion-dollar international organizations and is available as a freelance writer for federal agencies.

Robbie has written thousands of pages of content, including white papers, speeches, published articles, reports, manuals, newsletters, video scripts, advertisements, technical document and other materials. He is also co-founder of MoneySavvyTeen.com, an online course that teaches smart money habits to teenagers.