Here at the Miter Blog, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about meetings. Why? Well, we’re a meetings company.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to run an effective meeting, we should probably agree on some basics. So, I’m starting at the beginning and answering the question:
A review of the literature yields a surprising amount of variation. Is a meeting 2+ attendees? 3+ attendees? Does it need a purpose? (I mean, it should have a purpose, but does it need one?) Does it need to be verbal? Does it need to be synchronous? There’s a lot of disagreement.
Here at Miter we plan on tackling a wide array of bad meeting behaviors, so we’re going with an expansive definition. For our purposes a meeting is:
There are definitely some strange things about this set of characteristics. For example, if you squint just right, you could probably fit most company-wide emails into this framework given that the half-life of an email in today’s inbox environment is approximately 10 minutes. And, guess what?
However, we think this provides a flexible enough definition as we start to grapple with what a meeting is today and how we can change it for the better.
We’ll be talking a lot in the coming months about various aspects of the ideal meeting and we’ll be diving into the problems associated with the way the art of meeting is actually practiced today. To get the conversation kicked off, I’ll take the parts of the definition and highlight a few of the points we’ll be digging into in future posts:
Meetings have the unfortunate tendency to expand. Any given meeting, no matter how thin the content matter, will naturally expand to fill the time allotted to it on the calendar. A meaty meeting will naturally expand outside of its container to gobble up another 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Then, the effects of that meeting (especially a bad one) linger well afterward, consuming the attention of its attendees and preventing them from returning to the flow state they need to actually complete their personal work. Or if their next task is another meeting, they’ll arrive late and cause another meeting to run over. It’s no wonder there has been an explosion in scheduling apps that attempt to find space in people’s already overtaxed calendars for just one more meeting.
Who should be at a meeting? Research shows that the ideal number of meeting attendees is 5 or fewer. So how do otherwise well-run companies routinely have 20+ person meetings? We call it Meeting FOMO - the fear of missing out on the chance to provide input, learn about decisions, or even the political boost that comes from being in the room. In the same way that meetings expand to overflow their spots on the calendar, meeting attendee lists experience a natural upward pressure. One of the worst things that can happen to a person professionally is to be uninvited to a meeting they didn’t want to attend anyway.
The default reason to attend a meeting is that it’s on the calendar. Those 5 Weekly Status Meetings were probably created for a legitimate reason. However, humans are creatures of habit and we very rarely stop to remember that purpose… we just show up because it’s on the calendar. It’s always worth reminding yourself of the purpose of your meeting before it starts; even better, cancel the meeting if the purpose won’t be met by bringing those people together at that time.
So the next time you find yourself with other people at a time-bounded event with a purpose, guess what? We’re here to help!