Ever Just Sit and Observe a Meeting?

If anyone knows my employer, they would understand this completely. Meetings are a way of life! We have meetings to have meetings.. We have a training on how to run an effective meeting. We even have a group of people that help other teams set up and run effective meetings. The amount of energy that is spent pre, during and post meeting – is huge. Being the careful observer that I like to be; I decided to just sit back and observe a meeting on my calendar, without participating, just listening.

Here is my simple observations from pre to post meeting! I hope you enjoy.

Pre Meeting:

  • Meeting request was sent out weeks in advance (awesome), within that notice all of the audio conferencing information was completed with the first notice the participate (normally a calendar hit comes out with no details, followed by an update with the details – causing your email to increase by one).
  • Agenda, purpose of the meeting and details – were all missing, the only clue that I had what this was about was the title of the meeting. Which was not very helpful. (Our training says to insure that this is done either in the notice or a link to the team site – not good).
  • Any pre work that I needed to do – was not given. So, I guess I just need to show up!

During the meeting:

  • Meeting chairperson – shows up 4 minutes late to their meeting. 12 total attendees were waiting on the call. (not good).
  • Roll call – who is on the call? Good practice to insure those that should be there are there. After everyone speaks up the chairperson is calling out the names of the people that failed to show up. 3 more folks! I guess he was hoping that by calling on them – they would somehow appear. We are now 10 minutes into the meeting!
  • Chairperson thanks everyone and starts the meeting by going over what we are going to cover in the meeting (now we have an agenda of sorts). He then asks for questions! Since this is an audio bridge it is definitely a good practice to give others time to ask questions. One question – what is the expected outcome of this meeting? Great question! Well, 15 minutes go by and we get our answer. Now 25 minutes into the meeting. Wow, an agenda and purpose of the meeting in the meeting notice – could have saved us 15 minutes.
  • Meeting continues for awhile, then all of sudden someone is talking on the bridge and it is not on the topic that we are discussing. In fact, it was on a personal matter between a manager and subordinate – and the discussion was getting a little heated. Everyone is trying to tell who ever it is to mute their microphone. After 5 minutes this person finally hears someone.
  • Meeting continues – and the chairperson had a question for one of the participants! Asked the question and we all sat listening to silence. Are you on mute? Then the wonderful, “sorry, I was on mute. Can you repeat your question?” I am thinking, dude – you just got caught multi-tasking and really were not paying attention.
  • 5 minute warning that the audio conference is ending comes on. Chairperson asks, “can folks stay on if we extend the bridge – I think it will take 10 minutes to close?” Simple answer from most folks was – sorry have another meeting at the top of the hour. (I wonder how many folks really did have a meeting at the top of the hour? That’s right, they probably do!) I felt like saying – that if we did not waste the first 25 minutes – we would have been done by now… But, thought better, I am just playing observer…
  • 1 minute warning comes on – and the chairperson is trying to cram as much words as humanly possible in those last 30 secs. Bridge goes dead!

Post Meeting:

  • No minutes sent (at least it has been 4 days already). Maybe this person writes up all their meeting notes on the weekend. I doubt that I will see anything.
  • For some folks, they were given an AR (action required – request) to do something. Well, no minutes – I bet those AR’s will get done, not!

I know from my training that I have received over the years on how to run an effective meeting that this was not one of them. Basic hints are:

  • Meeting logistic – everything included. Meeting place, time start, end,  audio information if needed, but most certainly the agenda and purpose of the meeting..
  • Start on time!
  • Roll call – quickly.
  • Meeting dialog – to the subject, focused and on time.
  • Participants – mute phones (know they are on mute); be there only. Multi-tasking will only mean that you are not truly paying attention.
  • Recap AR’s – with dates…
  • Send out minutes – within 24 hours (at the latest).
  • Follow-up on actions.

For me, I have attempted to make a habit that I will not accept a meeting request, that I do not get the agenda or purpose on. I have a very limited amount of time in the day, I have to be effective! Wasting my time in a waste of a meeting is not one of them.