Five reasons not to have a meeting

May 29 2014 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

Studies show that we don't care much for virtual meetings (or webmeetings or whatever you want to call them). Many people say 2/3 or more of the time they spend in these sessions is wasted. So what does that other 1/3 do, and how do we know when to meet and when to not bother?

But some meetings do have a point. There are lots of good reasons to meet. Equally, though, there are at least five good reasons not to:

It's Tuesday, and we always have a meeting on Tuesday. Regularly scheduled meetings are great for making sure people block out time, but often we lack critical information, or someone can't make it. When people arrange their schedule, and their precious time is wasted, they get cranky and tend to whine about meeting at all.

If your Tuesday meeting won't be productive, cancel the Tuesday meeting. That way, when you hold one, it will be seen as actually useful.

Status updates from every department, every time. Really? Why? What's the point of sitting through PowerPoints, graphs and droning on to learn that everything's exactly like it was last week? If you're just sharing data, you can do that offline via email. If a particular group needs help, or resources, or you need to share critical new information that requires discussion, meet away.

There's nothing to see here. If you're sharing a short burst of information, and there are no critical visuals to share or documents to work on, just get on the phone. It's less trouble and people can take the call from more places, allowing them to get their work done. Not everything requires a big production. Use the right tools, for the right reasons, in the right way.

If you don't have the information you need, or the people you need, just don't do it. Meetings are at their best when people are prepared to work on something, they've thought about it, they're given good tools and information, and they have a chance to contribute. Can you ensure all these things will happen? If not, put the meeting on hold until you can.

The agenda goes out five minutes before the meeting. Look at me when I'm talking to you. This is the biggest mistake people make when scheduling a meeting of any kind. How can people be properly prepared to contribute if they don't know what will be discussed, how they're expected to participate or even why they are putting other work on hold.

The point here is not to discourage meetings. It's to discourage wasting time and limiting your team's productivity. Meetings that are productive focus on the work that needs to be done, leveraging the brains and personalities of your teammates, and working towards your long term outcomes.

If your time together achieves those things, meet away. If it doesn't, then take advantage of easier, less time-consuming ways to share information. If people know you value their time, they'll gladly give it to you when you really need it.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.