Archives for posts with tag: Meeting

Remote working, teleconferences, videoconferences, skype calls: they are the new norm, with many companies now embracing the idea of some of their staff working from home or satellite offices some of the time.

It’s very efficient too, for both parties, cutting down on overheads, time and travel, and reducing the effects of poor weather on schedules. You have to work harder to overcome the communication and confusion issues that can arise when you’re not in the same physical room as someone, but that’s OK.

However, to get the best out of working relationships, the absolute best, nothing beats face-to-face. You’ve got body language, facial expressions and the sheer presence of someone next to you on your side. If you want to sort out a disagreement, or clear a misunderstanding, get people together. When it comes to sales and marketing of products and services that carry a decent value, and a decent trust element, nothing beats seeing the whites of each other’s eyes.

It doesn’t have to be face-to-face all the time, simply once in a while will do it. Last month I caught up with 2 groups of people I’d been meaning to catch up with for a long time. Now we’ve met, we’re more front of mind for each other, the priorities have risen up the stack and we’re moving projects forward.

Like I say, even when or if we become used to hologram drop-ins and clone stand-ins, nothing will beat face-to-face.

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When I sit on a London-bound train and don’t want to shut the world away and write, like I’m doing right now, I like to soak up the ambience of my train carriage and home in on some of the mobile conversations that the less discrete business people tend to have after their meetings in the UK’s capital.

As well as the standard business shorthand phrases like ‘food for thought’, ‘keep moving forward’, ‘in this together’ etc. I usually have this unexplainable – as opposed to inexplicable – feeling of sadness wash over me. Not because I want to work where they work, but because of the inherent unproductiveness of big society where a mass of people mills around like atoms in a pan of boiling water.

All these people travel together with strangers into the big city, head to their specific meeting with their customer, partner or supplier, conduct their business, scurry back to their travel hub and head back home. They use the journey back for follow-up calls, post mortems, problems, solutions and actions, all within earshot and sight of another band of strangers.

And that, for me, is the modern big city: a vast collection of people on the move, in between things, trying desperately to minimise their A to B time and expenses. Whole industries built around a state of perpetual transience.

The promise of the Internet is that it can bring us together in ways that the phone never could do. Despite the advantages that the face to face element of Skype and video conferencing delivers, nothing has yet replaced the physical meeting as the pinnacle of human interaction and collaboration.

And hence the sadness. We crave interaction from our fellow humans, yet meeting them is all so inefficient. Teleportation would be extremely handy, but in the absence of that, I always wonder if there is a better way to co-ordinate these millions of criss-crossing journeys.

I think when I get back to my home office I’m going to stew on that and not come out until I have fixed it. Or in case someone wants to see me for a meeting

Meetings – I must say I tend to loathe them unless they’re well managed, which they often aren’t.  They seem to be an excuse to put off a decision, waste some time, and avoid executing on something.  They can be really counter-productive when not done well.

My first job out of college was a management trainee role, where the company went to proper lengths to train us in the basics.  How to communicate, how to manage your time, how to manage people, how to run meetings.  25 years on, I can still see in my head the old video on ‘Meetings, Bloody Meetings’ from John Cleese‘s training company.

There’s nothing worse than a badly run, badly chaired meeting.  So, with that in mind, here are 7 top of mind thoughts on how to instantly improve your own meetings.

– Have a start time and an end time

– Stick rigidly to both

– Produce an agenda, the shorter the better

– Ideally, allocate times for each item on the agenda to fill the total time available

– Publish this in advance so that people know what prep they need to do

– If you’re managing the meeting, control it, bringing off-topic discussions back on track, and agreeing actions and ownership of those actions.  If you don’t get resolution on an item in the time available, park it and move on.  If it’s not your meeting, and it’s a shambles, send the person this blog post

– If conversations get heated, take 2 short comments on either side of the argument and move on

A good meeting energises people, making them feel confident, informed and part of the team.  A bad meeting does the opposite, simple as that.