It’s a meeting, not astrophysics

Let’s play a game of “let’s stick our head up our own arse because I believe my own hype”. Sometimes, I read things that make me bang my head. This afternoon has been one of those times. Excuse the language, but sometimes, people just need a grip on reality. And I mean actual reality, not the reality they live in.

The post in question refers to how to hold effective meetings. All good by first glance at the title. Then I read the bullet points about how to do this. And it goes all wrong. It’s not that I don’t even agree with the post, it’s that the person has taken quite a patronising tone to the readers which I just don’t abide. Ok. Here’s the thing. If you’re reading the post needing to know how to effectively manage a meeting, you’re not going to learn it. I didn’t learn how to be a trainer by reading books. I did it. I didn’t learn how to facilitate meetings and workshops by reading a bullet point list of what is a good facilitator. I did it and got feedback from a lot of sources.

I run courses on Effective Meetings. It’s an hour and half long, and even I think that’s too long. Yes, there are basics that everyone should be doing, no it doesn’t need to be hammered home. Any manager or leader who notices that a meeting has not been useful should have the sense of mind to make it known to that individual at a time and in a way that is appropriate.

That means we have to trust that people can do this. Sometimes, I fear through blog posts – and particularly from company’s selling products – that they minimise the mental faculty people have and spoil the fun of being human, of being employees and of being in a work setting. Yes, effective meeting management is important, and yes, people have to do them well. But – BUT – no one, will die from a workplace meeting not having been managed well.

So go ahead, read the ten point list of effective meetings. It will help. If you truly want to know if you’re doing a good job, then seek feedback. And once you’ve had that feedback, practise again and get more feedback. Often, what will arise is that you need to go on presentation training, facilitation training, learn more about group dynamics, grow your business acumen and commercial nous (sp?), learn about brainstorming techniques, creative thinking, specific facilitation techniques, how body language can be interpreted and misinterpreted.

What won’t arise from reading a ten point list is knowing how to appreciate the attendees points of view, how to and when to use facilitation, what it means to influence by fluctuating your voice, the importance of feeling grounded and not phased by challenges that come your way, what it means to be embodied and being mindful. You may have a educated understanding of those things, but you won’t know what they look like unless you either experience it, or see someone else do these well.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “It’s a meeting, not astrophysics”

  1. I think the easiest thing to do is think of every poor/pointless/rubbish/counter-productive meeting that you’ve ever been in. Most people in the workplace have had more than their fair share of these and it’s all the training they need.

    For me, people that claim to be great at meetings are the same as people that claim to be great at powerpoint. When you have to sit through their greatness you realise they’re nothing of the sort.

    Once, a senior manager sent an unsolicited two page document to everyone called “the key to a great meeting”. It included sending out a clear agenda two days in advance (most meetings I attend are called less that two days in advance…), to delegate a note taker (generally I just let people take the notes that are important to them) and to ensure these notes are sent out no later than two days after the meeting, signed by all attendees as a true and accurate version of events in the meeting and returned to the chair (in many of the meetings I attend their are actions to do much quicker than this… after two days we’ve moved on…)

    I then had the joys of sitting in one of his meetings. Like someone killing you with powerpoint after claiming that they’re great (probably because they’ve read a book on the subject) it was a dire affair. Especially as he broke his first rule – that everyone should be on time.

    So yes, I’m completely on board with your rant here Sukhvinder – it’s very easy to over-complicate the simplest things… especially with L&D interventions.

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