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My Meetings Suck. But It’s Not Just My Fault.

March 16, 2011

[guest post by Elias Kakomanolis, Project Manager at JWT]

Judging by the amount of people who attended a SXSW session entitled “Your Meetings Suck and It’s Your Fault,”  it’s clear how frustrated people are with not only the amount, but also the level of inefficiency that exists in group gatherings. I realize as a project manager it may be hypocritical for me to say that meetings are inefficient, but that’s not exactly the point I’m making, nor the one the speaker delivered.

Meetings have become, in part, a solution to challenging issues that colleagues have a hard time understanding. Ken Hoffmann, User Experience Director at Happy Cog, blames this (as well as other inefficient use of group time) on the fact that there isn’t as much thought put into the design of meetings as their is to the design of an app or a print ad, or what you’re cooking for dinner.

Though meetings aren’t always pointless, Hoffmann explains that each meeting should be designed in a similar fashion to the way we design an experience. And this is for the simple fact that it IS an experience. We focus a great deal on designing interactions between things, whether a site, a computer, a piece of furniture, but few spend the same amount of time designing an experience between humans.

And this is the point. Every time people get together to tackle a problem, or a project, or make something, this is an experience that needs crafting. Not only do we need a goal, but there needs to be a structure to achieving that goal, and to make the meeting efficient the goal of every meeting should be grounded in “making something in the real world.” Brilliant.

So yes, maybe we do all need to spend some time thinking about what we do in these meetings, and how to make the time used more efficient. But it’s all of our fault. When we all agree that getting into a room in the simple sense of the concept is no longer enough, maybe then we’ll see less sneers or crinkled faces on people who get one meeting invite after another.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Zane Cassidy permalink
    March 16, 2011 5:01 pm

    “The goal of every meeting should be grounded in “making something in the real world.” This seems so simple and true. Some people are better than others at delivering a meetings goal and making sure that the team is also actively engaged (its kind of the equivalent to mental calculus). It is a skill, and this insightful article has encouraged me to try and hone this skill further. Thanks!

  2. ely permalink
    March 17, 2011 2:20 pm

    so, you’re saying we should have a meeting about how to make meetings more interesting?

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