Humans tend to spend a lot of time in meetings. Craig Wortmann found that humans waste a ton of time in meetings. Most people only think that 5% of meetings are even productive. I have blogged about how to run a productive board meeting here. Those are more formal meetings where there are clear expectations to get things done. They happen infrequently. The other meetings are the day to day meetings that everyone has on their calendar.
I don’t think you should try and avoid meetings. People are interesting. Chicago Booth Professor Michael Gibbs has said, “When you scratch below the surface of a Chicago Booth EMBA student, you will find a fascinating story underneath.” People are like that. They have interesting stories and experiences and you can learn from them.
Currently, I am engaged, maybe “consumed” is a better description, by three types of meetings.
- Fundraising for our fund
- Listening to pitches from entrepreneurs who are fundraising
- Networking to keep building my network and provide a support network for entrepreneurs
One of the things that I have had to do in each of them is to set my expectations prior to the meeting. If possible, I try to be transparent about those expectations to make sure the other person is on the same page at the start of the meeting. Seth Godin says to bring an active voice and point of view to a meeting and I agree. It makes no sense having a meeting just to be physically present-or even worse to be on an internet bridge with headphones on.
Setting expectations prior to the meeting will give you purpose and help you find the “active voice”.
Sometimes, you don’t know enough to know how to set expectations. Find someone and ask-or absent that simply ask the person you are meeting with at the very beginning, “What do you hope to get out of this meeting?” Even if expectations don’t align, you should be able to find one question to further your understanding about something that the other person can answer.
They’ll tell you. You can quickly see if what you were hoping for matches what they want. If not, it’s a short meeting and you wind up respecting each other more because you didn’t waste each other’s time.