Meetings: how to deal with necessary evil!


Pretty much everyone, except for me, hates meetings. I find the bigger the company the more the meetings. Unfortunately this isn’t a simple linear function, it’s geometric, not arithmetic. So the very small meetings I have with founders are great. No longer being part of a large corporation means meetings aren’t a problem – for me. If they are for you here are some tips from The Wall Street Journal article by Priya Parker entitled: We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This: Tips for Better Workplace Gatherings. As usual with The Journal, the sub-title is an excellent summary of the article. Too many meetings are an ineffective use of people’s time. A few small changes can make a big difference.

The article is taken from the book by Ms. Parker: The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, to be published by Riverhead on May 15. Ms. Parker is the founder of Thrive Labs, an advisory firm. The author interviewed dozens of organizers including a choreographer from Cirque du Soleil, a Japanese tea ceremony master, a director of an Arab-Israeli summer camp and a conference curator—to understand how they create galvanizing, generative moments.

Here are the tips, with my comments added:

Set the stage

I set the stage by sending out an agenda to all concerned so they will know the purpose of the meeting and what its objectives are. Not everyone reads their email so I bring hard copies of the agenda for those who missed my email for one reason or another. If the meeting has real potential to be combative I try to contact the prime combatants ahead of time to help smooth the waters during the meeting.

Let everyone see and be seen

I learned the art of cold-calling from working with professors at the Harvard Business School. If people aren’t participating either they don’t belong in the meeting or they don’t have anything meaningful to add. In either case they should be asked to leave.

Issue pop-up rules

This is a new one on me. But they idea is to create an amusing or creative rule that applies to your meeting and will change how the attendees interact and the outcome of the meeting. The author instituted a rule that anyone coming late had to do 10 push-ups on the spot. Not sure I’d go that far, but any way to help prevent tardiness is helpful.

Cause good controversy

Not sure I agree with this one! But inserting a controversial topic on the spot if the team looks tired and not engaged is one way to wake them up! Asking each attendee to choose one side of the argument or the other might be an effective way to both engage the participants and get at issues that may underlie the team or the company.

The author posits that following these rules can help change the corporate culture. I’m not sure about that. However, I would say that the way teams meet may well be governed by the company’s corporate culture. So if you don’t have a culture of diversity and respect for other’s opinions I doubt following these tips will help. But they certainly can help a team meeting. If you are interested in tips on how to manage a mentor meeting I have several posts on that topic.


Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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