The amount of time, energy, and money wasted in meetings every business day in corporations around the world is astronomical. Bert Decker says that most businesses can eliminate half of their meetings and cut the time of each of the remaining meetings in half. I don’t know if that literally makes sense for companies, but it’s an admirable goal to which many should strive. My experience is that many organizations use meetings, whether face-to-face or virtual, as their main way of communicating. This has become epidemic since the ease of electronic communication. Now with people able to join a teleconference from anywhere in the world at any time, physical presence is no longer used as a factor in the decision to hold a meeting. Not long ago, “meeting” only meant face-to-face; now, when someone says, “Let’s meet,” they very likely mean a conference call.

But let’s be clear about his. A face-to-face meeting is qualitatively different from a virtual (phone, Web, etc.) meeting. The nature of the interactions, information, and participation are different. Ten people around a table can discuss topics, share ideas, and make group decisions. Ten people on the phone together cannot do this; at best, they can hear information and listen in on the conversation of a few. One type is for decision-making and one is for information dissemination. However, managers use both types of meetings interchangeably and then are surprised when they can’t get the same outcomes from a conference call as they get from a face-to-face meeting.

If you want to improve your skills at both types of meetings, check out How To Run An Effective Meeting and Ten Tips to Tune Up Your Teleconferencing. This advice is about what the convener of the meeting can do. Also think about what participants can do to have an effective meeting. They should find out the purpose of the meeting, what their role in the meeting will be, and what they need to bring with them. If the purpose is to update or report out, they should ask, “Is there another way to accomplish this other than a meeting?” If all participants start asking these questions, we’ll start a guerilla conversion of organizations from being meeting centric to being results centric.

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