Meetings. It’s the bane of many people’s existence and the butt of thousands of comic strips. I’d be willing to bet that in 85% or more of all meetings with three plus people, that at least one of the meeting participants utters to themselves, “That was a waste of my time.”
It’s okay to hate meetings.
But, I think we are too quick to cancel the wrong meetings – because we are guilted into holding the meetings we really should cancel.
When I’m busy, I look at my schedule and typically see two types of meetings: internal meetings and external meetings. The external ones are those that are with customers, partners, recruits, investors or countless other people outside of my company. And it turns out that because I don’t have to look them in the eye or see them in the hallway or share the elevator, the external meetings are really the easiest meetings to cancel. If I’m busy, I simply fire off an email or a text a few hours before the start time and say I’m just too swamped or today’s not a good day or the dog ate my homework. It doesn’t matter because it’s easy, it’s clean and it’s a victimless crime. So we cancel. Turns out those emails are pretty damn easy to send because I only look into the monitor or phone – no eye contact required.
On the other hand, it’s those internal meetings that I should cancel but I’m usually not about to cancel. Why? Because my excuse isn’t that good or the person is in the same building or it’s been on the calendar for a while or I don’t want to appear too busy for that other person or I don’t want to get a reputation and a canceler. The funny part is that the other person is probably thinking exactly the same thing… “Well, it should just be quick and rather than say I’m too busy, I’ll just meet.” It’s like a nuclear standoff where we both have our hands on the trigger hoping the other person will push the button… so we never do.
The reality is that more-often-than-not, it’s the external meetings with a customer for feedback or a potential partner to discuss a way to work together or an investor for a check-in that yield the most opportunity for something badass. When was the last time you came back to your desk after an internal meeting and said, “Hell yes… we just killed that management team meeting?” Instead, you might actually hear yourself say, “I will definitely follow-up as this meeting was a total win.” And yet, that’s the meeting we find reasons to cancel – because it’s easier.
Next time you feel swamped, overwhelmed or just not up to an external meeting, stop and reflect on the meetings to cancel (don’t simply pick the easiest one to cancel). Maybe choose to cancel an internal meeting (or two) and keep that partner or customer meeting. Or hell, use that external meeting as an excuse to cancel the internal one (prepping for my customer feedback session.) More magic tends to happen from getting outside of the building than from holding another status update.
By the way, I love these meeting “How-To” instructions from the great people at Urban Airship. Live it. Love it. Learn it. F- the hard meetings.