I Have Just Come Out Of A Fantastic Meeting

You are quite right. I made it up.

People simply don’t talk that way – largely because fantastic meetings are rarer than hen’s teeth.

Meetings get a really bad press, especially when you consider how much of our lives we spend in them. Here’s a fairly typical pronouncement, from an American humourist called Dave Barry, ‘If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings” ’.

My last writing project was designed to help people make better decisions in better ways. Decide was published last year. I became fascinated with the meeting phenomenon while researching and writing the book.As a result I am now working on a much more ambitious venture – a book to persuade organisations to run meetings in a completely different way. Not specifically companies and agencies in the marketing communications world. All companies. And everyone with any influence within those companies.

It is hard to spend decades in the world of work and not get very frustrated at the sheer futility and ineffectiveness of so many meetings. The one hour meetings that fill our diaries are supposed to move projects forward and aid decision making. But they generally don’t.

Too many meetings. Too many people around the table. Too many egos on display. Too little meeting technique – both from those leading meetings, and those asked to attend them. There’s also confusion about what is supposed to be going on. Are meetings to inform? To update? To lobby? To persuade? To discuss? To debate?

Or are meetings a process – part of the work involved in achieving a goal? In which case the end may be more important than the means.

And what about meeting protocols, style and manners? How important is it to encourage civilised behaviour as well as efficiency and effectiveness?

We have a controlled trial of Mote in progress to help us answer these questions and more. Mote involves making a whole range of radical changes to the conventional way we all run meetings. The economist Thomas Sowell said, ‘People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything’. You can understand the sentiment. But if we can bring about a profound change to elevate both the performance of meetings and the degree of professional satisfaction for the participants, maybe we can make his comment out of date.

Could we have a fantastic meeting after all? With Mote, hopefully more often than not!