Meeting Expectations When It Comes to Meetings
Meetings. The conglomerated work effort to bring about the grouping of individuals to converse and discuss topics of relatable interest at a given point of time. In mere words, meetings are one of the several crutches of work in business analysis that endeavors to accomplishing our goals. Whether you relish them or dread them, meetings are compulsory. Open your calendars and assuredly you will see on a daily or weekly basis that you have a concentrated number of meetings spanning numerous projects. Or, if you are one of the lucky ones, your meetings can be far and few in between. My personal record in the marathon of meetings has been eight meetings in a workday, all different, varying projects and spanning four hours of the day. When I converse with people outside of work and inform them of my longwinded hours of speaking or listening in on meetings, they give me an incredulous look and with care: “How do you get any work done?”
Some of us may admit that we have faced this question and own to some self-truth: we may not be wholly paying attention to the meeting. Answering emails, preparing for the next meeting; perhaps, you stepped out for a quick cup of coffee, with the camera off as a preventive measure. In the virtual world that we found ourselves transitioned to by the public health pandemic that is COVID-19, it has allowed ourselves to grant meeting liberties we would not possess if we were meeting in the office. However, authentically, we should be setting our expectations and meeting them when it comes to these meetings to effectively achieve our objectives. So, when I was posed with this question, I took some time to reflect, and born was this article. How do we meet our expectations when it comes to meetings to make them effective and to get “work done”? For myself, it has become a set of principles to follow as a guideline when it comes to these sessions. These fall into timing, focusing, documenting, and communicating.
There are only so many hours in the working week that we can accomplish what we want to, and it never feels like there is enough time. Meetings can be an impairment to our limited time in the week, miring our stacked to-do list. However, it does not always have to be this way! The first tenet to the meetings is to appropriately time them. Timing with effectiveness is everything when it comes to the foundation of a meeting. Consider, when scheduling one, an honest effort of how much time the meeting should take. If you know it will take an hour, schedule an hour, persist to keeping to an hour, and be pleasantly surprised if your meeting is shorter than anticipated! Timing effectively is not a skill learned overnight; nevertheless, it is one that can be continually improved upon through best practice.
Additionally, focus on meetings comes in two forms: preparation and execution. I have found that being prepared for meetings can strike chords in the efforts of delivering an effective meeting. Rudimentary in nature, necessary by necessity. Know your subject, what your objective is and how you are going to achieve said objective. Execution will then follow shortly thereafter; and keeping your meeting attendees focused is baked into this. Too often, “meeting creep” can set in and suddenly your hand is forced to reschedule or schedule more meetings to impair your effective timing. Avoid the divergence by preparation and keeping on track, for both yourself and attendees.
When it comes to documenting, a wise person in the IT realm when I had been in my secondary education, once told me to “document everything.” At the time, it made no sense. Now, it means truly that: responsibly document everything when it comes to meetings. Whether it be sharing your screen with a running document or the old-fashioned pen and paper, meeting minutes and notes are the core aspect to documenting the action items and deliverables in projects. It serves it’s purpose to be able to say who, when, where, what, why and how someone was able to do something in a project when it was documented during a meeting of said project. One does not, nor must not, transcribe every word; yet glean a holistic enough perspective to highlight the key points with enough information for reference.
The tried-and-true adage that “communication is key,” is not just for relationships in our personal and professional lives. It is true for meetings. The ability to communicate with transparency and effectually is the last rounded effort of the lexicon that promotes a synergized meeting. Go back to your preparation and execution from the “focus” principle and translate that into the communication you are delivering. Instead of meager words forming together sentences that might satisfactorily achieve the objective, aim for the exceeding and deliver on what your best work is each time, and your meetings will thank you.
Meetings. The word may forever be ingrained into our brains as a hallowed term in the business analysis field or ring us full of trepidation. Yet, if we remind ourselves of the tenets homed in on this article, we may find that meetings are not as tripe and dismaying as they are. They are a major source of our work and should be treated no differently than any of our other aspects of efforts. We hold ourselves accountable for the work we deliver as business analysts and the work outputs of meetings are equivalent. Spend the little amount of time it takes to accomplish these items, in no order, and experiment with how much more you can further your meetings. You may find that your work is completed in a timely, or even early, fashion.