Think Before You Organise a Meeting

For what reason do we actually organize meetings? And when we organize them, how do we make sure they run efficiently? Kevin discusses this matter with expert, Bart Provost.  

Kevin Van der Straeten
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For what reason do we actually organize meetings? And when we organize them, how do we make sure they run efficiently? I discuss this matter with expert, Bart Provost. 


Hi Bart, welcome to the studio. 


Thank you. 


Today’s topic is efficient meetings. Aren’t we meeting efficient? 


Not really. I mean, one of the most heard complaints of people, working in corporate environment is really that most meetings are not efficient at all, that they don’t like it, they don’t really get motivated by it. So people are hardly efficiently meeting at all. 


So the solution is cancel them all? 


That would be an easy one. That probably would cause some other problems. I mean, as long as people are working together in a team, you need to talk to one another. Communicating between people is really important. And that’s the reason why meetings could be far more efficient if at least we start thinking about meeting and organizing meetings in a completely different way. 


And how is that? 


Which we call a paradigm shift. For instance, instead of like thinking: oh, we have a meeting… and some of the meetings are even scheduled weekly or bi-monthly or… And then you have to be there. 


Yes, with 20 or 30 people in it. 


Yes, and then, we all have to be there. Which brings on another topic about corporate tourism. 


Corporate tourism? 


Yes. People running around from one meeting to another and then just, oh being busy, busy, busy. Which, by the end of the day, they haven’t done much but they have been assisting in all the... 


Your work starts at five in the evening… 




…then you can start working with your emails… 




All your meetings are over. 


Yes, and that’s the reason why we should rethink it. Rethink it completely in a way that first of all, we should consider the objective. Like, we have different possible objectives. Like, maybe we have to shape an opinion. So there is a topic and we need to think about it. We have to shape one opinion, as a group we agree upon the same topic. We need to make a decision, make a call. We need to follow up on projects. There are so many things like informing people, all of them are objectives. And if we would be able to do that, first, think about objectives and then afterwards choose a medium or a mean, a tool, a technique that can help us achieve the objective...


And then the meeting is a tool. 


A meeting is just a possible tool. It could be a video conference. It could be even like a remote poll, an online poll. If it is about forming or taking decision. Like, what do people think about it? Are we going to the pizza restaurant or are we going to the Greek restaurant for the personnel party? Okay, just do an online vote, an online poll. 


Not a board meeting for that? 


Not a board meeting. Oh my god, no! That’s just a waste of time. And if you would choose a meeting just as a possible tool then maybe we could just send more emails, or put something on the internet so that people can read it. 


But isn’t the risk with an email that people just delete it and not read it? 


Oh, absolutely. So that’s the reason why you really have to thoroughly think through the objective. Like, what’s the reason? What’s the main objective behind informing people? Why do you want to inform them? Is it just so that they know something? Or is it just like: okay, we need you to change your behavior. Like, as from tomorrow morning, there’s a different start-up, protocol if it comes to starting up your computer. The people have to change behavior. Or is it like, okay, we’re going to have a change management process and you need to change your behavior. Like, for instance, how are we going to tackle customer complaints? Maybe some people are not motivated at all to do that and maybe, then there is another objective behind it, like, we need to motivate people, we need to tell people and convince them that it is for the better of the company and for the better of the customer that we’re going to do that. So at that moment, a meeting might be a good idea. But then again, which tool within the meeting? Should it be a presentation? Should it be like, I don’t know, an open space methodology? Could it be the six hat thinking by De Bono? So there are very nice techniques but you first of all need to determine what is the objective and then you can go for a suitable technique. 


So do your homework upfront before sending the meeting invitations? 


Absolutely. There is a very nice saying that says, okay, the price of success is always paid in advance. Which is the same case for many other things like negotiating skills but also meeting skills. Which means that, yes, you have to spend, you could say the Pareto rule like 80% of your time and energy beforehand. And then your meeting becomes quite more efficient. 


And what about those meetings where everybody’s invited? Just because everybody needs to be there? 


That’s quite nonsense. A lot of people don’t dare not to invite someone because that might hurt that person’s feelings. Which is okay. It’s a belief but it’s an ineffective belief. It would rather be better to ask ourselves the question, like what’s in it for me, or what’s in it for the meeting? And only invite people that really have an added value for the meeting or people for whom the meeting might have an added value. 


So you can leave your boss out, then? 


Absolutely, absolutely! And if the boss’s ego is a very healthy one and he or she doesn’t have a huge ego that wants to be there because otherwise things might be decided without him or her: no. At that moment, if your boss has a healthy ego, you might not invite him or her. Absolutely. 


Okay, Bart. Thank you very much.  


It’s my pleasure. Thank you. 


And you at home, thank you for watching the show. I hope to see you next week.