No matter the size of the business, meetings can be huge time wasters. Commercials make fun of meetings, where you see bored guys staring off into space or worse yet, goofing around behind the bosses back. These commercials should be a reminder to ask yourself whether throwing a meeting is really necessary.
I’m reminded of an old “Dilbert” cartoon where Dilbert’s boss stops by to have a pre-meeting before the meeting, and Wally (Dilbert’s co-work) essentially says, “We can’t just rush into the pre-meeting meeting without having a pre-pre-pre meeting to set it up.” During said pre-pre-pre meeting Dilbert says to Wally, “you think you’re funny, but you’re not.”
I actually thought of this during a 45-minute trek in a car service today to go see a consumer electronic company’s line show. I needed to see the latest products that the company was unveiling so there was no way around it, but I basically spent an hour and 15 minutes in travel time for a 20 minute demo. That’s not a good use of my time this week, but if it had been for a mere meeting I would have been even more upset.
Meetings are the ultimate time waster, especially if travel is required by any of the participants. But it brings me to the alternatives, which include conference calls and more and more Web-enabled conferences. Personally I’ve always hated the former, which I see as truly tedious and utterly unproductive. I just know that someone on the call must be playing a game or surfing eBay auctions. I know this because more often than not… it’s me! Thus I don’t get much of conference calls.
Don’t get me wrong, I do a ton of phone interviews and regularly have phone briefings. But conference calls are almost as much of a time waster than meetings. If what is being said can be summed up in an e-mail memo than let’s never do the call in the first place.
The other option I mentioned, the Web-enabled conferences are a little better, provided we’re not all on a webcam. I personally hate Web cameras. It isn’t just that I work from home so I worry I’ll look like a slob on the camera. Part of it is that the technology isn’t there yet. Seeing someone speak on camera doesn’t add anything to the experience. I’m always distracted by the stuff in the background. Hence I don’t use the webcam unless absolutely necessary. It is a great tool for Christmas morning for those relatives that can’t be in the same room…the rest of the time it should stay tucked away in the box.
However, there are other tools I do like. Interactive Web sites, and remote access programs aren’t bad. I even find online slide shows and remote presentations to be better than merely having to listen to someone drone on. I guess if I’m having a meeting I need something to click on to make the time pass. Otherwise, I know eBay is calling me!