ONE month into the new year and some of us are already planning the GREAT OFFICE ESCAPE. Yes, I am talking about those pesky soul-sucking meetings.

Google is full of advice on how to weasel out of company meetings, ranging from mysterious rashes, “womanly issues,” tummy troubles, to home emergencies and being summoned to court. Apparently it is better to be rather vague when lying, something along the lines of “Due to personal reasons, I will not be able to attend the meeting."

There are meeting junkies, who cannot go without their daily shots, but company meetings are not high on the LIKE lists of many people. “Useless,” “pointless” and “unproductive time suckers,” are some of the words thrown around. Late economist and public intellectual, John Kenneth Galbraith, also added his two cents, “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything."

So why are we still meeting?

BECAUSE… 80% of decisions are made in meetings. This is also the place where we decide how we are going to take decisions: outvoting each other or reaching consensus? Here we choose the way forward; we brief and inform each other, gather views and opinions; solve problems and review activities. 

Of course MEETINGS are not the problem. Those Unnecessary and Ineffective meetings are responsible for giving meetings such a poor reputation. 

CLEAR YOUR CALENDARCut meetings that are not supposed to be in your diary.  Only those which purposes are clear should get the green light. Also review invitees’ lists – do all those people really need to attend to achieve the outcomes of the meeting?

There are plenty of alternatives to meet your needs. Use emails to brief co-workers and customers; pick up the phone to get a quick update; use Google Docs to get individual input. Make use of free software, such as Skype and WhatsApp. Replace some face to face meetings by conference calls and video conferencing where possible.

MAKE THE BEST OF YOUR FACE-TO-FACE MEETINGSMake the best of your face-to-face meetings. They are still the most effective way to capture the attention of participants, engage them in the conversation, and drive productive collaboration. And you can read body language, a dead give-away of someone who is just doing lip-service but disagree with decisions. But the most valuable aspect is the nurturing of strong and positive personal relationships and a sense of a shared mission. That small talk around the tea table is vital.

CRITICAL INGREDIENTSMeetings are run by people for people. Therefore NO meeting (virtual or face-to face) can be effective without a competent chair, an efficient minute-taker and informed engaged participants. The mix of these role-players, combined with the correct steps and procedures guarantee effective, productive meetings with positive results, spilling over into a happy workplace. 

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