Meetings are considered a necessary evil, and virtual meetings are often thought of as more evil than most. But do they have to be evil, and are they really necessary?
It’s easy to say that “all meetings are a waste of time,” and “if they’d just leave me alone I’d get some work done.” The simple fact is that SOME meetings are necessary, and if ALL your meetings are a waste of time, well, you’ve got some fundamental problems with your team dynamics and work style.
If we ask ourselves these three questions, one of two things will happen. Either we find out that yes, we really need to attend this meeting, or no, we don’t, in which case, find a way to beg off. And then if we do have to attend, how can we add value to the meeting (hey, if you’re going to be there anyway, might as well make it worth everyone’s time).
Before holding a meeting, or accepting a meeting invitation, ask yourself or the person leading the meeting:
- Is this meeting really necessary right now? Tone is important here, because you don’t want to seem impertinent or snarky. Is it necessary for everyone to halt their production for an hour or so? What is the ultimate purpose of the meeting? Often a meeting might be an inconvenience for you but offer critical information or assistance to the rest of the team. If so, great, that’s what being a teammate is all about. But have you and your team examined alternatives such as SharePoint sites to update each other on information, conducting email conversations to gather critical data, and brainstorming before the meeting so that you can make the best use of your time? If the right people aren’t there, or the ultimate purpose of the meeting can’t be achieved, maybe it doesn’t need to happen at all.
- Is my presence really required? Why? If you’ve ever shown up for a meeting unclear as to why you’ve been invited, or what your role will be, you know that it’s difficult to have a positive attitude about the whole darned thing. More importantly, you can’t be properly prepared, which means you’re not adding whatever value the people who invited you expect to provide. Before accepting a meeting invitation, find out exactly what you’re expected to DO. If the answer is nothing, it might be possible to beg off entirely, or slip out when the relevant topic is covered.
- How does this meeting fit my existing priorities? Sometimes (okay, pretty darned often) we get invited to meetings out of courtesy, or habit, or just-in-case. The fact is, the person doing the inviting often doesn’t know what’s going on in your world. Are you under deadline? Do you have a deliverable for someone else? Has someone double-booked your time? Take a realistic look at your time, and don’t be shy about asking the host (particularly if they are your manager) where the meeting fits into your priorities. You’d be amazed how often you either don’t have to attend, or get clarity on why your presence is important.
If we understand what the meeting is supposed to achieve (and there’s a chance it can happen), your presence will add value, and attendance won’t fatally disrupt other priorities, then the meeting is necessary—and probably won’t be too evil.
To learn more about leading effective virtual meetings, check out this resource.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.