Will there be donuts? A guide to meetings…

How many meetings do you have a day? A week? Are they all a productive use of your time? Are they structured and worth attending?

Hmm, I can imagine your answer! So is there another way? Well yes, according to a book that comms pro Leoni Atkins read recently and she’d like to share what she’s learnt with you.

Leoni is an internal communications manager and editor with more than 10 years editorial and communications experience. She currently works for PwC as Communications Manager for the Global Information team, where she is responsible for shaping and delivering the communications strategy. In her spare time, she “pretends to go to the gym, posts the occasional helpful tweet, volunteers for Book Aid International and writes fiction.” You can find her on Twitter @creativekitty.

Over to  you Leoni…

Will there be donuts?

I remember watching the first time a Dementor worked their soul-sucking magic on Harry Potter and thinking: ‘Yup that pretty much sums up yesterday’s meeting’.

According to recent studies published in the US, 91 per cent of professionals daydream during their meetings, 73 per cent complete other work and 39 per cent doze off.

I recently asked followers on Twitter for their ‘meeting bugbears’ and it revealed the following:

@lisa_bondesio People who insist on having meetings for meetings sake and spend time waffling not acting

@kimborrowdale Filling time with pointless updates just because you have an hour or two in the diary. If you’re done, wrap it up early

@AllthingsIC Lack of agenda/purpose. Often results in wasted time as people politely wait for each other to lead

As communicators, meetings are the holy grail of channels. In fact, according to meetings expert, David Pearl:

‘We are moving into a post-industrial age where knowledge and ideas are the assets. Meetings are where these assets are formed and traded. They are to our times what the steam hammer, forge and mill were to the Industrial Age.’

So how we can fight the boredom and start to engage people in meetings? Enter this real-life ‘meetings *Patronus charm’ – David and his first book: Will there be donuts? Start a business revolution one meeting at a time.

Using case studies from his work, David educates the reader on how to hold meetings and how to make them great. Packed full of gems of advice, here are some of the sparklers I found most useful:

The true cost of meetings

Certain hard-nosed members of an organisation will often view terms such as ‘engagement’ in meetings with distrust. That’s why David counts the monetary cost:

‘Imagine you are in a role which requires you to attend three hours of meetings a day. And let’s say you’d score those meetings 70 per cent effective. Let’s also imagine there are 100 people like you in the company and that your average wage is, say, £60k…You just wasted 82 days in meetings this year, costing your company a pretty significant £1m. What’s more, if you were to continue at this rate for a conventional career, you’d be burning a total of nine years, six months and three days of your working life.’ 

websiteYou can count the cost of your own meetings over on David’s website (pictured) – this is a great idea! – Rachel.

Establish the intent of the meeting

Sounds obvious right? The intent of most meetings is to ‘catch up’ or ‘share information’. However, this isn’t the ultimate intent, says David. This is the ‘what’ of the meeting, i.e. the objective, rather than the intention:

‘You may have a meeting where the objective is to discuss sales figures. But discussion is not the ultimate intent. It’s there so that you make great discussions, or navigate the next year well, or protect your investment…

‘When you buy a lottery ticket, your objective is to win. Your intention is about what you will do with the winnings.’

The seven basic meeting types
Once you have the right intent for your meeting you have to match it with right type of meeting. Using the analogy of a caveman and woolly mammoths (yes, really) David talks us through seven essential reasons for meeting including ‘meeting for news’, ‘meeting for selling’ and ‘meeting to innovate’.

Bad meetings always have good reasons
People moan about boring meetings, bad content and the waste of time. However, says David, the secret one wants to admit is that…’our meetings are bad because we want them to be’

‘All the bad things you say you don’t want in your meetings actually give you something.’ For example, when someone says ‘meetings are boring’ this gives us the feeling that we’re so much more interesting than the people around us.

Every meeting is your meeting
The difference between nearly meeting and really meeting is you. Every meeting is a chance to change things up and take the initiative whether you’re the official ‘host’ or not. If it feels like a meeting is a car crash waiting to happen, take control of the wheel:

‘If you genuinely want real meetings, you’ll find you start taking the initiative, whether you are leading them or not. You’ll find yourself less and less tolerant of nearly meetings.If you take a lead, others will follow.’

How will you take the lead in your meetings?

*A Patronus charm – a spell that fights off a ‘Dementor’, but not boring meetings. I think.

Post author: Leoni Atkins

Thank you Leoni. I love the meeting calculator, what a smart idea. Have you read this book? What did you think of it? If you’ve read something recently that you like other comms pros would be interested in reading about, do please read my guest article guidelines and get in touch with your idea, Rachel.

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