Virtual Teams

The information giving meeting #MeetingMyths

Many meetings consist largely of information giving. Much of it is irrelevant and could be delivered much more effectively outside the meeting.

This is  the kind of meeting where you sit passively whilst people present at you. There is little role for the participant beyond listening. A best you then discuss the information or make a decision based on it. At worst it was just “for your information” and you never use it again.

My favorite is the huge spreadsheet with numbers so small you cannot see them and the presenter says “I know you cannot read this, but the pattern is interesting”. It very rarely is.

Here are some test questions to apply to these topics and meetings to see if they are worth including:

  • what will the participants do differently as a result of this information? If nothing then don’t share it.
  • who in the room is the information relevant to? If not everyone then call a smaller meeting
  • can the information be shared in advance by text or other media so that the meeting can focus on the decision or discussion?

In many organizations, information is presented because people cannot be trusted to read any prework. As a result, everyone sits through presentations whether they have read the prework or not. It requires discipline to break this habit, but it can be done. Refuse to recap information for those who have not prepared, or let them catch up by reading at a table at the back of the room whilst the discussion starts without them. (You will probably only need to do this once.)

Contact us to find out how we can help with other workplace efficiency issues. Whilst it may not be possible to eliminate all information giving from meetings, it is a good target to aim for. Meetings are synchronous (same time), expensive and can be difficult to organize across timezones or busy diaries. They should be about discussion, decisions and co-creation of new work, not the passive consumption of information or other people’s PowerPoint shows.

There are many tools available for sharing information asynchronously that do not require people to be at the same time in the same place. Use them outside your meetings and your meetings will become more interactive and engaging.

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