9 Ways to Avoid Meetings

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Here at Roomzilla, we love a good meeting. Heck, meetings are why we created our conference room scheduling software! But sometimes people call a meeting when an email or online chat would have sufficed. Or they invite you to a meeting that you’re only going to speak at for a few minutes. Have you ever wished you could have fewer meetings? While meetings certainly have their place, they can often be productivity killers. If you feel like there’s too many meetings in your office, the following suggestions can help you to not only reduce the number of meetings, but also increase everyone’s productivity.

1) Start with Digital Communication

The first way to reduce the number of meetings in your office is by asking these two questions:

  • Can we chat about it via a messaging app?

At Roomzilla, we try to only call meetings when digital communication can’t get the job done. If we need to have a conversation, we try to first have it using Slack. Not everyone is available at the same time, so calling a meeting either interrupts people’s workflow or requires everyone to wait until each member can meet. With Slack, everyone can participate in the conversation when they have the time. This asynchronous conversation might seem a little slow, but it is far less burdensome to everyone else involved. It also gives people the benefit of time to think.

  • Can we present and discuss over email?

Meetings are often used to update teams on progress. Well, the update is helpful. But does everyone need to spend the hour in the meeting to get the update? Could the update go out as an email? Ultimately, for an update, the team should care about a few key items, all of which can be communicated via email. The important thing to find out is what happened. Usually, this is best presented in a change format, either %, time, or $. For example:

Revenue grew by $1,000

Costs fell 10%

Order time increased by 5 hours per order.

Additionally, it's important to discuss why it happend. Provide context and learning so that we can either make it happen again or prevent it from happening again. Finally, what needs to happen and who needs to do it? This can lead to smaller and more direct conversations between the people who need to take action.

With an email formatted like this, everyone has the information they need to have a thoughtful and engaging conversation, while conducting it at a time that is convenient for them. Make sure to get clarity on what the exact issue is so that your email make sense and is comprehensive in covering the topic.

2) "Meet" on the phone or on a video call

A group call is basically like a meeting in that everyone needs to be available at the same time. BUT, and this is a big but, not everyone has to participate and pay attention to the entire call. If you only need someone to speak for five minutes, and that person’s contribution will not be informed by anyone else’s contribution, that person can wait on mute and unmute themselves only when it is their turn to speak. Once they’re done speaking, they can hang up.

3) Choose Better Verbs

There are lots of good reasons to have a meeting. But if a meeting is for one of the following, perhaps there’s a better way to accomplish the goal?

Discuss, update, review, inform, report, present, check, talk about, evaluate, connect, think, consider...

If any of those words is the main verb, email and online chat may work just as well, with the added benefit of letting people participate when they have time and only if they need to be involved. WIth email and chat, you can do all of the things on that list. Your ultimate goal should be to only hold and attend meetings that directly result in a change or in action. Sure, a conversation might lead to action, but what specific action is going to be taken and will that action have a meaningful impact on the business? If not, avoid that meeting!

4) Send someone to represent you and your perspective

If the issue is too complex for notes, prep someone to speak on your behalf. Give them the notes, but then also talk about the issue with them so that they fully understand your perspective. Make sure that this person, and everyone else in the meeting, knows that they speak for you. Also, make sure they actually feel empowered to speak and act on your behalf. Communicate your expectations and their responsibility. If something goes wrong, it’s coming back to them. Likewise, if they do it well, it will be part of their review. 

5) Ask to be Updated After the Meeting

You can further reduce the number of meetings you go to by asking someone to take notes for you and update you later. Read through them and see if there are any issues that require your attention. If there are, communicate with the necessary people. If not, celebrate the fact that you saved all of that time! 

6) Ask for an agenda

Asking for an agenda or why the meeting is being called will force the meeting planner to discuss the meeting. That will not only help you to see if you should even bother going, but it will also help you to prepare notes to send on your behalf if you decide not to go. A great place to put this is in the calendar event. As a general rule of thumb, this can help your team collaborate on the agenda and also make sure that everyone is on the same page.

7) Decide if you even need to be involved

If you are not present at the meeting, will the meeting be seriously affected so much so that the meeting gets rescheduled? If not, you probably don’t need to be there.

8) Ask if the meeting will impact your areas of concern and control

Before accepting a meeting invitation, ask if the topic to be discussed will have an impact on areas of the business that you are responsible for. If they won’t, or if the impact is expected to be minimal, skip it. Another way to put it is like this: “If the outcome of the decisions of this meeting go well, will it positively impact my career?”. If not, it probably isn’t worth attending.

9) Block your calendar!

Often, and if your coworkers are polite, they will check your calendar to see if you’re free to meet during a specific time. Well, that’s an easy fix. Block your calendar! You can set your calendar so that they only know if you’re free/busy. If you can’t control what they read in the blocked off time, write in the name of something important that everyone knows is a high-level priority. When they read it, they’ll reconsider the timing of the event and even if they need to invite you at all. And don’t feel bad about this! Why should someone else have more of a right to your time than you!  

9.5) Present early

This is a bit of a cheat (hence why we called it a half of a point), but sometimes sending notes or a representative on your behalf isn’t enough. If so, see if you can present your issue or discuss the parts that are relevant to you first, and then leave the room for everyone else to discuss.

What’s your strategy for avoiding meetings? How do you reduce meetings? Do you have tactics or ideas that we didn’t mention?