When Meetings Attack – 10 Types of Annoying Meetings and How To Escape Them.
Don’t we all just love meetings?
Despite the fact that meetings are almost universally loathed, an unreasonable amount of our time seems to get tied up in them. Here’s what really happens in the most common types of meetings – and some great escape plans you can implement to make them bearable!
01 – The Walking Meeting
A favourite of senior management, walking meetings are supposed to be efficient, but you’re concentrating so hard on keeping up with your boss, not tripping over your shoes or spilling coffee all down your front that you can’t really process what’s being discussed at all.
Was it a test? you wonder when it’s all (mercifully) over.
Escape Plan: Um...just don’t do them. Walk towards a wall or solid object, and then stop. Refuse to be part of this madness. There are perfecting good standing desks available if the need to be standing is really your thing. Walking was meant for...well, getting from A to B. To be enjoyed at a leisurely pace and preferably in solitude.
02 – The Impromptu Coffee Machine Meeting
The coffee machine is a truly magical place. Delicious coffee notwithstanding, this trendy, more awesome relative of the water-cooler is a place where laughter happens, mysterious ailments are fixed (headaches, drowsiness...) and people make fleeting connections every day. In short, the coffee machine just makes everything better. It’s not meant for serious chit-chat. And besides, nothing good can come from getting in the way of someone’s caffeine addiction!
Escape Plan: Just sidle over to a standing leaner or benchtop under the pretense of being interested and at the first opportunity side-step/sidle right back over to your desk.
03 – The Late Night Beer In Each Hand Meeting
As your boss loves to say, “creativity isn’t a 9 to 5 gig”. But what he really wants is an excuse to put his feet up and have a cold beverage. The whole thing quickly turns into a tirade against clients – and you end up getting minimal work done. But you suck it up because it’s good for your relationship (even though it may not be so good for you waistline).
Escape Plan: Make sure the beer fridge is empty. The likelihood of this kind of meeting occurring will diminish greatly. Of course, the likelihood of you making any friends in the office has now diminished greatly, also.
04 – The Team Building Meeting
For you this usually means heading to angsty art shows with your workmates. But HR has something else in mind. It involves twister or archery (anyone been watching too much Hunger Games?) or some strange combination of the two, and you can’t for the life of you understand its application in a work context.
Escape Plan: Ensure it’s fun AND relevant to work fun e.g. a team hackathon for new product ideas. Only sketches and ridiculous diagrams allowed. You’ll be amazed how actually making things and solving problems can help the team bond naturally.
05 – The Obligatory Status Update or Work In Progress Meeting
What your boss really wants to know is: how much work have you done? And depending on the size of the team these WIP meetings can get pretty time-consuming.
Escape Plan: Bring anything along (mockups/ print-outs/ prototypes) that will help convince your boss that you haven’t just spent the last two weeks checking Facebook and watching cat videos on Youtube. If possible, hold your WIP weekly or even fortnightly and share smaller progress updates via a communication tool like Slack, Yammer or Skype.
06 – The Let’s Brainstorm Together Meeting
Really, these kinds of meetings should have been banished a long time ago. Not only do they waste huge chunks of time, they create ‘groupthink’ and no tangible ideas at all.
Escape Plan: Get everyone to come in with at least three ideas before you even begin. Ensure the facilitator helps everyone stay on track. Remember, the more you accomplish, the shorter the agony of the actual meeting!
07 – The New Client Meeting
Behold, a shiny new brief this way comes. Everyone is on their extra best behaviour, lavishly dishing out praise and promising things you’re pretty sure won’t be achievable (at least not without sacrificing your precious weekends).
Escape Plan: Read on to avoid these critical client onboarding mistakes and establish a better agency-client relationship.
08 – The Agency vs Agency Meeting
The client wants you to work with their other agency. You’re all in in one room and egos are bristling. The whole “workshop” is painful and entirely unproductive.
Escape Plan: Keep the meeting focused on the task at hand – ensure everyone comes to the table with at least 1 x point to share instead of working in secrecy. Or, if that fails, organise a table tennis tournament to work out all that pent-up aggression. May the best agency win!
09 – The Final Presentation To The Client Meeting
The project’s done, you’ve just made the deadline and your boss is gearing up for the big sales pitch on making this “a long term relationship”. But you can’t wait for the damn thing to be over so you can celebrate at the pub.
Escape Plan: Don’t schedule the meeting at an ungodly hour when everyone’s thinking about lunch or Friday drinks, and make sure only attendees who need to be there are – there’s no point inviting the whole team who worked on the project! Let everyone have a role in the meeting so they can have input and not just twiddle their thumbs. And always serve coffee and cake.
10 – The Informal Review Meeting
It’s supposed to be a “casual catch-up” but what really happens is: you get zero sleep, spend the morning stressing about what to wear and nervously recite your pitch for a pay raise. But when you finally see your boss you blurt out a vague list of accomplishments along with all your hopes, fears and dreams.
Escape Plan: Stick to a simple “Stop/Start/Keep” template so you don’t overcomplicate things. It's worth keeping a document where you write down accomplishments as they happen, right throughout the year. That way you'll be able to get to the point quickly, stop yourself blabbering in nervousness and show your boss all the reasons why you've been awesome (cue the raise!).
So there you have it. The most common types of meetings and what you can do to salvage them, save your sanity and work smarter. What are your favourite/worst meeting experiences?
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