Hi and welcome. We're going to give a presentation on Productive Meetings. Before we go further and talk about how one can make the meeting productive, how one can use some tips to benefit from meeting, let's start the presentation with a basic question - what is productive meeting or how one can consider that the meeting is productive or not?
We searched on Internet and found 46 different definitions for productive meetings. Each definition has different matrices to measure the productivity of the meeting. But, to generalize the definition for ourselves we come-up with our formal definition.
The definition of a productive meeting is simple. If meeting fulfils the agenda within a given period of time then consider the meeting as a productive meeting. Two points are important here - fulfil the agenda and complete on time. Consider the example when I arrange a meeting with Ankit with an agenda on how to implement the new enhancement within four days and the duration for the meeting is 30 minutes. In this case, if we don't come up with a solution then how the meeting is complete? and if the meeting takes 2 hours then something is wrong with a meeting!
In case, if you do not agree with this definition, save your doubts for later, after the presentation, you can raise your points or suggestions or corrections! But for now, give us time to complete our presentation.
So now, we know what is a productive meeting, right? Let's go further and talk about the participants in the meeting. Ideally, meetings are for everybody. But as PG says, manager shines in meeting and work is for engineers. If you are constantly asking for engineers to join this or that meeting other than related to code or development then re-think your consideration. Because that hurts the productivity especially if the engineer is working on some important and complex part.
Now, let's assume that you're planning to arrange the meeting. Then what things you must need to consider to make the meeting productive? We have a few suggestions for you.
- Agenda: If you're arranging a meeting then it must have agenda otherwise meeting doesn't make any sense except you are firing someone! Let's say, I'm arranging a meeting with Mihir then Mihir should know the agenda of meeting otherwise meeting will become one-sided. I'll be the one who raising points, concern, suggestion and so on. Because Mihir doesn't prepare himself for the meeting. Why? Simple he just doesn't know what we are going to talk in a meeting. But, if I send an agenda then, the communication with be two ways and we both will get benefits from the arranged meeting.
- Loudest Voice: If you are arranging a meeting then you must have loudest voice. Loudest voice means not someone who speak loudly but someone who is respected within attendees of the meeting. So, whenever conflict happens, she speaks and resolves it. Let's say I and Ankit are arranging a meeting with "font-end" agenda. We're working on one project and we need to choose the front-end for a given project. He said Angular is the best and I said no, React is best. The chances are high that meetings convert into discussion and gossip because I'll say my option is best and he'll say his option is best. But, none of us with talk about the cons of our choice! In this case, if we involve Bhavesh, a project manager then a meeting can be overseen by him and he can resolve conflict if occur and come with a conclusion.
- Meeting of Minutes: Finally, the meeting must ends with MoM or Meeting of Minutes. It is totally okay if your MoM doesn't contain complete description such as parliament is saving the session. But, it must contain the important part of the meeting's discussion and conclusion/solution that comes within a meeting. Otherwise what will happen is, after a couple of weeks everybody forgot the conclusion of the meeting and productive meeting become a ghost who hunt us for a conclusion.
So, again if you're arranging a meeting with something one then consider - agenda, loudest voice, and MoM.
Now, the meeting is a group activity so that it is compulsory that every attendee must participant otherwise you'll not get the valuable input and attendee's time just underutilized because she joined a meeting instead of doing her work. We'll touch this topic again after few minutes.
Finally, the most important one - meeting must be on time and you must be present. Consider the following scenarios.
Ankit arranges one meeting with me and Hiral at 4 o'clock but due to heavy traffic, it is impossible for Ankit to join meeting on 4. So, he joins the meeting at 4:15. But, meantime, we already join the meeting and passing our 15 minutes without doing anything except waiting for him. Again, Mihir arranges one meeting with me and Ankit at 5 o'clock but due to one of his old friend come at his home, it is impossible for him to join the meeting on schedule time. He joins the meeting at 5:15. What I and Ankit did - spent our first 15 minutes doing some gossip or other activity than work and meeting. Again, Bhargav arranges one meeting with Ankit and Hardip R at 2 o'clock but due to battery low, Bhargav didn't get any notification from his mobile on a meeting. So, he just forgot about the meeting. Then he realizes that a meeting is going on and he instantly join the meeting at 2:15.
So, in the end, this draws a pattern - the actual meeting time is - meeting time + 15 minutes. But, this has consequences. Consider the example that I and Ankit has one meeting with the client at 8 o'clock. What will happen? We'll join the meeting after 15 minutes. The conversion will be like -
Customer - "I'm waiting for you for the last 15 minutes."
Ankit - "But, meeting time is 8:15."
Customer - "No. Who told you?"
Kiran - "Everybody knows that the actual meeting time is - meeting time + 15 minutes."
Customer - "From where you get this formula?"
Ankit - "Everybody knows here this. This is normal, right?"
Kiran - "Yeah. That's how it works."
and the rest is the story.
Things are not complete here. You must be present in meeting with your active involvement. Let's say Mayur arrange one meeting with Pankaj and Mihir on production issue which needs to be fixed within a couple of hours then it is Mayur's responsibility that she activity present and involved in a conversation to resolve the issue. But, instead of discussing the problem if Mayur occasionally checks mobile to read messages, replay someone's WhatApp's joke then it will pass the message to Pankaj and Mihir that the issue is not important at all and the seriousness of meeting goes away. So, in future if Mayur arranges meeting with some serious issue, nobody will consider the subject with the seriousness it will make a situation like "vagh ayo vagh ayo...".
But, we're human and it is possible that we can't be on time because of some external problem. In this case, you should before 10-15 minutes that you'll able to join the meeting or not on schedule time. Let's say, due to heavy traffic, it is impossible for you to join a meeting on time. In this case, you can pass the message to all attendees that you'll not be able to join the meeting on schedule time so that meeting needs to postpone or there are some topics which need to discuss but my present is not important you can go with those points and tell me the final options after your discussion. In this way, a meeting will be on time and if something goes wrong, then you control the damage.
Now, let's talk about active participants. How you as an organizer get feedback from all attendees? You can ask all attendees to write their points against the agenda and then read loudly in meeting to make sure everybody wrote and did a brainstorm on the topic of the meeting. This is how Amazon's CEO Jeff arrange a meeting. In his meetings, PowerPoints are not allowed. The only things you can go within the meeting is - memo in which you write your points which needs speak-out or discuss. If someone tries to talk about something that is not within the agenda then note it down for the next meeting or just discard it if not needed.
Things are not complete here on a productive meeting. Let's say you are arranging a meeting between a half dozen developers and ask for suggestions on a database for an upcoming product. In this case, it might possible that you get two or three solid feedback, each backed with a solid list of arguments and pros. In this case, you as loudest voice needs to choose one database but with 100% "buy-in" meaning everybody should agree with your decision on choosing database including those who suggest other alternatives. Otherwise, you'll not benefit from those developers if they don't sell out on your decision.
Also, the decision and buy-in must be impeccable otherwise it'll have consequences. I mean like I agree with Mihir on Git that I'll help Mihir with Git. So, he asked me to install Git on my computer. I said, No. Why? Because I was agreed, I didn't tell that I'm going to help you will install. In this case, you must need impeccable agreement like - If you agree with Git, then you must need to follow the mentioned Git process on each issue and change.
But, things are not complete here. Consider the scenario where you have all loudest voices in one room and agreement can not be reached within 1-2 hours. In this case, you need to follow - RAPID process.
Here, R is for Recommended, A is for Agree, P is for Perform, I is for Input and D is for Decision. Let's say Mihir asked for Team Lead meeting on the future of AI and our involvement as an organization to grow with AI. Now, he is the R or one who recommended. Now, the CEO will ask others for a suggestion like how many are A or agree with him. Let's say I, Ankit and Monica are agreed with him. But, they are not the one who is going to work further if the Recommendation is confirmed. Bhavin, Mayur and Bhargav are the once who P or perform. So, in that case, we just need to here them because they are the one who is going to perform at the end. But, you know that Ghanshyam, Chirag, and Bhavesh are experts in AI so they are the I or ones who have valuable input. Finally, R or Mihir can reach out all the As, Ps and Is to solicit their input and finally send this input to D or one who is going to decide e.g. CEO.
Now, this decision can be two types - Type 1 decision or irreversible decision and Type 2 decision or reversible. For example, as part of implementing some experiments in AI we need special chip worth of $2M and this chip can not be used at any other places than this experiment then this decision should be taken by CEO because this decision is one-way door and you can't go back. Or consider the other example where you want to buy let say 5 CPUs for doing some lengthy calculation. This can be reversible and in case you don't go with the calculation you can still use these CPUs for other purpose or you can go back where you before - two-ways.
We haven't included agile/scrum meeting or stand-up meeting because everybody knows about it and many of us are following every day. So far we discuss the meeting which is "group" meeting. But, a group meeting is not the only meeting. There is a one-to-one meeting or one-to-one customer meeting. In this case, you need to consider a couple of points while arranging a meeting. I already wrote an article on it. So, I'm not going to repeat it here as part of the transcript.
Finally, if you are doing an online one-to-one meeting then you need to consider a few things such as
- All the software or device you should use must be work. Otherwise, it'll just spoil the smoothness of meeting and everybody get distracted with your testing noise like "I'm audible" or "Is my screen visible to you" or "hello, hello..."
- If possible then send an invitation. Use a popular product such as Google Calendar or something which provides a way to remind the meeting and also send the invitation in guest's timezone.
- Think about background noise. If you are seating at someplace at where the background noise is coming. Do some arrangement because other people might have high-quality headphone and even a small noise from your background hurt other's ear.
- If you are taking with a customer, listen carefully about what she is saying. Don't cut before she complete. You can raise your point after her sentence.
- Finally, if you are completing the meeting why not just say goodbye have a nice weekend or day, see you soon or take care!
So, this is a productive meeting presentation. We are thankful .Net team to gather all required material for us! The floor is now open for question and comments!
Level up every day