How to Avoid Death by Meeting

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I want to talk to you today about meetings. Ew. If you are leading people, if you are leading an organization, you are going to spend a lot of time on the phone and in meetings. Here are a bunch of random thoughts that come to mind when it comes to meetings.

I am creating this article in a meeting room. In rooms like this, meetings happen everyday. Unfortunately like Jim Wideman says, often a lot more gets said than done in meetings. If you have meetings, how can you make them effective? What a great question. I’m glad you asked.

There is a book written call Death By Meetings. Have you ever wondered how you are going to die? I don’t know, but it’s going to be in one of these meetings. I know I’m going to die; death by meetings. Meetings don’t have to be brutal; they don’t have to be fatal. They can actually be very effective if you learn to lead them effectively. I spend a lot of my life in meetings; phone meetings, zoom meetings, skype meetings, face-to-face meetings. Because I spend so much time every week in meetings, I am committed to meetings being effective because I don’t want to waste time.

So here are some random things I have learned along the way; I like to keep meetings short. I don’t know why when you put a meeting on your calendar it automatically defaults to one hour; I think that’s the biggest mistake. Listen, I don’t want to talk to anybody for an hour. I love 15-30 minute meetings. Get it said, get it done, and move on.

I also like to avoid meetings if at all possible. It’s amazing sometimes when someone wants to meet with me, and I will ask them to text me a head’s up on what they want to talk about. Then I figure out that the meeting can be avoided with just a simple response to an email. All this person needs is a simple answer, and they have called for a full meeting. Try to avoid meetings whenever possible.

I always like to have an agenda. I almost demand one when I have a meeting because I want to know what it is we want to accomplish and how to punch it out. Without an agenda, you’re just kind of driving, and you are not sure where you are going. It is quite ineffective.

I also want to know who is driving this meeting. It will be one of the first questions I ask in a meeting. Who’s leading this thing? Who’s the driver of the meeting? Now it might be me, it might be someone on my team, but I want to know who is driving it and pushing it forward.

Another thing, what are the action steps? If you want to have effective meetings, you have got to identify the action steps that come as a result of that meeting. We have to identify the action steps, so that next time we meet, we can loop back. Did this stuff get done? I’m not always great at identifying action steps, but I have people on my team that are great at it, and I really lean in on their expertise.

What about if I am forced to attend a meeting that has nothing to do with me? Maybe if you are on staff at a church or are a part of a leadership team you get pulled into these meetings, and you are sitting there like “huh?” Learn to effectively multitask. I don’t think it’s good to just sit there on your laptop typing away at your keyboard. However, I wonder if you could have something on your laptop screen that you could be reading, so then you are actually reading something or bringing some notes in, some printed material that you are actually reviewing. Try to learn to multitask in a smart and respectful way.

Here’s the deal. We are all going to spend a lot of time in meetings. If you are not careful, meetings can be big time wasters. If you are smart about it, they can actually be quite effective in communicating, building a team, and keeping projects moving forward. Again, you have to be smart about it. So think through your meetings coming up, especially the ones you control over. Am I being effective at those meetings, or are others going to say, “boy, here comes death by another meeting,”?

Your #1 fan,


Ryan Frank