How to reduce meetings and influence people...
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... to do the same.
Problem: Ineffectual meetings. Meetings that take longer than they should. Too many meetings. Meetings that consistently sound like this five minute video... "The Conference Call" by David Grady.
But what about those meetings you HAVE to attend just in case something comes up, or to stay informed about developments and progress on projects or programs? Easy. That is what wikis, discussion forums, blogs, and RSS feeds are for; staying informed when it matters!
Collaboration does not mean scheduling a one hour meeting. Collaboration can be done at any time of the day, regardless of your colleagues' availability. Using internal wikis, blogs, and discussion forums, you can not only collaborate more effectively and have written record of your progress, but you can do so across time zones and geographic boundaries. Using RSS feeds, you can keep an eye on any updates from a single location across communities and functional groups.
(Ooooooh, here comes the work plug! In the interest of transparency, yes, I work for IBM, and yes IBM owns Lotus. That said, I honestly -do- think the tooling I am about to discuss is effective and worthwhile, and I don't say that about much!)
Using Lotus Connections, you can build communities to support collaboration and reduce the number of "essential" meetings you attend. Because Lotus Connections has wiki, blogging, discussion, bookmarks, file storage, and many other capabilities, the online collaboration can take place at your discretion. Priority management can now be more effectively accomplished as you no longer need to balance those silly meetings with getting actual work done. And because Connections is built with RSS features, you can set up your feeds in the tool of your choice to stay up to date with all the items YOU care about and participate on your own terms.
While I use Lotus Connections for a wealth of reasons in IBM, I find the most beneficial part of it all is the RSS capabilities. The RSS feeds I watch for the various communities I participate in allow me to quickly glance at updates and determine if the information is something I need to focus on now, if it can wait, or if I need to pay attention to it at all. Information triage, as it were, in milliseconds. This has truly been the single most effective tool to combat information overload I have used to date.
So, now that you've divested your self from those ineffectual meetings... are driving the meetings you do attend with a new vigor and granular focus based on specific agenda items posted to your wiki (and updated later with details of the discussions)... and are globally collaborating with colleagues across time zones, what more can you do to reduce meetings and influence people? The answer: Work on your meeting etiquette.
Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way... and I'll say right up front, I have broken every single one of these at one time or another, so don't think I am throwing stones in a glass house here:
But don't take my word for it all... check out "The 22 minute meeting" a six minute iGNiTe video presentation by Nicole Steinbok. Here's the link to the instructional poster too. Nicole makes some stellar points via some very amusing fashions.
I truly hope this has given you some good tips, tricks, or tools to use to make your day to day job more effective and efficient. If for nothing else, I hope it gave you pause to think about what you can do as an individual to help make sure your meetings are run as crisp and concisely as possible, with few distractions, clear goals, and shorter run times. After all, if you can make a small difference, imagine what we can accomplish if we ALL make those small differences....
image credit: (cc) flickr user Ha-Wee