Five sensible ideas for meetings

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By Raju Mandhyan

THE whole world is constantly participating in meetings. “Let’s have a meeting,” “I am in a meeting,” “Call you right back after the meeting,” are statements you hear all the time. Sometimes, it makes me wonder if most everyone I know is so often in one meeting or another who then, in heaven’s name, is minding the, proverbial, store? Who is building the bridges and who is baking all the bread in the world?

The truth is that a lot of time, across the world, is being wasted in and during meetings. Should we be able to capture all the wasted energy from the din and noise generated during meetings then we would have no energy crisis. We’d be cutting down lesser trees, digging up lesser oil and, leaving lesser carbon footprints on the face of this lovely planet. The air will be clean, the oceans will start cooling down, and the birds will start flying south again.

A typical meeting usually starts late and it involves catching up with others, waiting for the late-comers, listening to their excuses and updates on the traffic conditions of the city; bringing them up to speed, ordering coffee, re-reading the minutes of the last meeting, plugging the computers, logging on to the Internet and rushing through the true agenda so as to catch up with the next meeting, again, at another venue.

If this is even partially true for you then here are five quick ideas to bash up the beast of bad meetings. Five is a good number because it represents the number of sensory inputs and outputs to our conscious mind. Research in the field of neurosciences has shown that the conscious mind can only juggle and manage seven plus minus two chunks of information at a given moment.

With nine chunks of data we are at peak performance therefore stressed. With seven we perform at medium stress but at five chunks we are relaxed, participative and also creative.

Idea One: E-mail everyone, a substantial time before the meeting, a five-point agenda that is more illustrative than narrative. Use sketches, diagram, and flowcharts because pictures are easier to remember than words. Assign expectations and tasks for that individual. Keep it simple and to the point.

Idea Two: During the meeting, issue a little more detailed version of the same illustration to everyone with their roles and tasks segregated by color. Allow space for that individual to make and takes notes. Look up Edward De Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ and use the science behind that. Throw out the black hat of ‘caution’ or use it as a pan to collect penalties from the usual latecomers, the hecklers, and the time-wasters in meetings.

Idea Three: Choose one big, hairy goal for the meeting and less than four minor goals to be achieved as outcomes of the meeting. Hang a large sign of the big, hairy goal where everyone can see it before and during the meeting. The large visual aids focus and like bees to honey everyone will keep directing their conversations to the big, hairy goal. The minor ones will fall in place just like dominoes do.

Idea Four: Allow a few minutes before the meeting ends to make a bonfire out of the big, hairy goal sign and the small illustrative notices that you sent out. Capture the outcomes of the meeting in an illustrative format and sketch out the measures and the big hairy goal for the next meeting. Take up a free lesson on Mind Mapping.

Or, better still, scratch out the last suggestion about the next meeting. Your every meeting should be like you’ll never have to meet again.

Idea Five: All research, option generations, plans, milestones, measures are elements of cerebral thinking but true choices are made from the depths of our hearts. Treat each other with respect, kindness, and empathy so as to nurture their emotional sides but let the latecomers, the time-wasters and hecklers be pirated by the competition. Read up on why compassion as a leader is important.

Practice these five ideas if you like or chuck them out the window. It is best to just roll up your sleeves and bake that bread, build those bridges, or chill by the beach.


Raju Mandhyan is an author, coach, and a trainer.