The typical business meeting is a fantastic way to switch off, kick back and ponder important topics, such as what to have for dinner.
But what happens when someone threatens this stress-free ride to a quiet nap? What are you going to do when some eager-beaver manager decides to be efficient and organized?
Productivity is on the increase, and this is bad news for all the cubicle workers of the world. Productive meetings can be like an infectious disease within your organization. They soon spread from one department to another and lead to other diseases like “engagement” or “profitability.”
So next time it’s your turn to organize a meeting, make sure you leave all thoughts of productivity at the door. Early detection and implementing these steps will enable you to stamp out the infection of productive meetings and lead your organization back into the pack of mediocrity:
1. Make it difficult to schedule or reschedule meetings
Don’t put personal appointments in your calendar. This way, a high percentage of meetings will need to be rescheduled due to unforeseen non-availability.
If you must decline a meeting invite due to a conflict, don’t supply any details of when you might be available.
2. Invite someone from an external company
Try to invite someone from an external company, especially if you can’t view their calendar. Then you have a good chance of scheduling the meeting during a time when they’re unavailable. This helps to ensure the meeting must be rescheduled to a later time.
3. Schedule during times inconvenient for everyone involved
The best times for unproductive meetings are lunchtime or after 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoons. Meetings right before extended holiday weekends are also guaranteed to be unproductive.
4. Select the meeting room that makes the least sense for your group
Try to invite more people to the meeting then there are chairs in the room.
Or, if only a few people need to attend, select the largest meeting room available. Inevitably, someone else will have a meeting with a larger group at the exact same time and need to use the same room. You’ll have no choice but to reschedule.
5. Omit necessary details on the meeting invite
It’s best if no one knows what the meeting is about. Give your meeting a vague name and don’t go into detail about the agenda.
This way, it’s impossible for attendees to prepare ahead of time or bring insight that could make the meeting productive.
6. Pick a faraway meeting location
If fewer than half of the people involved work in a different building, it’s preferable to book a meeting room in their building. You’ll ensure that more people will waste their time traveling between buildings to attend and return from meetings.
When scheduling a faraway meeting in a different building, try to pick one that has a long and complicated visitor sign-in process. If all you need is your ID card to get through security, accidentally leave it on your desk. The hope is that you will have to go through the visitor sign-in process, thus delaying the start of the meeting.
7. Start the meeting late
Once everyone has arrived, be sure to spend at least 10 minutes talking about something completely unrelated. Good time-wasting topics include someone’s recent vacation, what you ate for lunch or the results of the last “big game.”
8. Arrive without the necessary documents
If your meeting involves reviewing a document, avoid bringing spare copies for those colleagues who didn’t think to bring their own. Time will be wasted running to and from the copy machine.
9. Be inconsiderate of other people’s time
Your colleagues probably want to start their own meetings late. Allow your meeting to run over to ensure your tardiness to your next meeting, where everyone is waiting for you to get started.
By running over your allotted meeting time, you’ll also delay the start of the next meeting scheduled in the same room. If someone does politely knock on the door, nod, smile and continue with your meeting for another few minutes.
This is a particularly good technique if you’re more senior than the next group of people.
10. Commit teleconferencing snafus
If the meeting involves calling in another party, be sure to forget the contact’s information and phone number.
It’s also helpful if nobody knows how to use the teleconferencing equipment. Even better, schedule your teleconference in a meeting room that does not have the right equipment.
11. Answer your cell phone in the middle of the meeting
If your cell phone rings mid-meeting, answer it right away. The call might be more important than this meeting and will only take a second or two to find out.
Once you’ve told the person, “I’m in a meeting and will call you back later,” give them the opportunity to squeeze in their request anyway.
12. Stay off topic as long as possible
Hopefully you didn’t go so far as to create an agenda for the meeting. If you did, it’s okay; just don’t follow it. Spend at least half of the meeting debating some minor point. Be sure to ignore any critical issues that arise.
Make sure everyone gets an opportunity to talk for as long as they want to, even if they’re repeating the same thing someone else said. It’s important that your no-agenda meeting wastes as much time as possible to keep people from their desks, where they could accomplish real work.
13. Stock up on freshly dried-out whiteboard markers
If you intend to use the whiteboard, replace all of the good whiteboard markers with mostly dried-out ones. The trick is using pens that are faintly legible, but cannot be seen from the back of the room.
Also make sure that more than two dried-out markers are available; that way, more time is spent checking each one.
Above all, be sure to return all dried-out markers to their useless place on the whiteboard ledge. Don’t throw them out! You wouldn’t want the next group that uses the room to have a productive meeting with working markers.
14. Mark “Do Not Erase” beside your useless whiteboard notes
Draw a circle around your scribbles and write DNE (Do Not Erase) to prevent the whiteboard from being used for the next six months.
15. Avoid taking minutes or notes
Don’t record minutes for the meeting if possible. If minutes are mandatory for your organization, then it helps to rotate the minute-taking around the group to ensure the task is inconsistent from week to week.
16. End the meeting without action steps
For a meeting to be truly unproductive, no new information or solutions should be presented. When the meeting ends, all attendees should have no idea as to what they are supposed to do next. So, make sure no actions are recorded or assigned to anyone.
Are you willing to be the person who prevents productive meetings? Do you have the strength to suffer through unproductive meetings and stop your organization from growing?
Will you take a pledge to honor and uphold the principles of unproductive meetings? Stand up and be counted and prevent your company from being dragged into this brave new world!
Richard Perfect is a blogger and software developer with a penchant for sarcasm who is leading a crusade against endless meetings that achieve nothing. You can find him on Google+ and check out his blog The Decision Wall, which helps teams make the right decisions without dragging them through time-sapping meetings.