A complex topic!

I overheard a conversation, in the old days when people worked in offices with other people, in which someone was asked whether they should have a meeting to discuss a topic. The response, dripping with sarcasm, was something along the lines of “sure, meetings are my favorite pastime.” The same week I heard someone tell a direct report that office time was for meetings and after-hours was time to get everything else done — I know the two people involved and this was only a little tongue in cheek. Meetings often seem to consume whole days. A study by The Muse indicates that organizations consume 15% of their total time in meetings. Even if the statistic is wrong by a little, most of the people I interact with believe they spend too much time in meetings. Part of the issue is that meetings have become a currency that people use to measure importance, therefore lots of meetings occur for the wrong reasons. Rather than focusing on the bad reasons, five good reasons to have a meeting are:

  1. Collaboration – Working in a group to solve a problem that one person could not solve on their own. For example, brainstorming new services when the market changes is a solid use for collaborative meetings.  
  2. Impart complex or emotionally packed news. – Some messages require human interactions and dialogs to reach a wide audience. For example, a meeting to inform staff members that they will be working from home. A dialog will help attendees internalize and understand the situation faster than a multi-page memo. 
  3. Motivate – In trying times getting a message of support can be valuable for supporting morale.  Meetings provide more visual context than asynchronous delivery tools such as memos and even podcasts.
  4. Generate a plan of action – Developing and coordinating a list of tasks to tackle work is almost always a team activity, working meetings are useful for getting this done with the least amount of effort. 
  5. Hang Out (special case) – In general, this is a horrific reason for a meeting, but in special circumstances these types of meetings are useful.  A mixer or a virtual coffee are both examples of useful “hang out” meetings that can be useful for building morale and camaraderie.  

One of the critical threads that link all of the good reasons together is a clear goal for the meeting. Without a specific outcome and facilitation, the best-laid plans of mice and men can go astray.