Meeting Communications

Published: Friday, January 8, 2016

I am glad these guys were at the meeting.  Mural on board the Pride of America

As I was reviewing the email for the last time in the day, I received four meeting requests, all with no agenda and ambiguous titles. My initial response was to just decline without any reason. After a hard pause, I decided to be more civilized fashion and at least respond with a couple of questions.

The Response

I noticed you have scheduled a meeting with no agenda. So that I can be better prepared, could you please help me with the following information:

  • Please provide a summary of what the meeting will be about and what are the outcomes of the meeting.
  • Do you have any read ahead materials so that I can be prepared.
  • Am I a key decision maker for you? If not, would it be sufficient to provide responses to the questions you have via email?

I am more than happy to attend if you can provide me answers to these questions beforehand, otherwise, I will have to decline.

The Outcomes

Of the four meetings, I only attended one because I was a key decision maker and the meeting organizer was on the ball and graciously provided answers to my questions. For the ones I didn’t attend:

  • Meeting 1 replied back that they didn’t need to have an agenda. This is why I didn’t need to attend.
  • Meeting 2 was not necessary to attend because I wasn’t a key decision maker and provided written responses to the questions. More importantly, the organizer cancelled the meeting as the decision makers chimed in on feedback. In addition, the organizer recapped the conversations and disseminated the key decisions.
  • Meeting 3 - I sent another person in my place that was more appropriate to the conversation. Delegating is very effective in meetings.

Key Points to Ponder

  • Not every meeting without an agenda should be responded to in this way.  For instance, I received an invite for a sync meeting (1:1) with my manager’s manager. I actually sent him a list of questions that I wanted to cover in the meeting even though I didn’t schedule the meeting.
  • For myself, any meeting over 5 people, especially where roles overlap, I try to avoid if I what I would provide is duplicate support.
  • Also if a meeting is more than a half hour, try to find out if you are truly needed for the whole meeting or just a portion, hence why an agenda is so important.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt if they don’t provide an agenda. At least the grace of forgetting once or twice.
  • Make a response like above as a template that you can use over and over again.  It will come in very handy
  • You will change behavior over time of many of your colleagues if you request the information above.

Do you attend meetings when you don’t have to? What are the tips that you use to gain back time which can be more productively spent?