"We should have a meeting about the way we do meetings" were the last words I remember. I woke up in cold sweat. The last thing I wanted was ...
Issue #3
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This email could have been a 1-hour meeting

"We should have a meeting about the way we do meetings" were the last words I remember. I woke up in cold sweat. The last thing I wanted was another meeting.

It's hard to write a newsletter on meetings, frankly speaking. There's very little new to say. All the complaints about meetings have already been articulated. All the jokes were already told. All the research is done aplenty. All the advice is out there. Yes, there are too many of them. Yes, meetings largely make people miserable. Yes, people are at work, but no work is getting done. Yes, companies are wasting insane sums of cash on meetings each year. People read these articles in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, etc., nod in agreement, and then keep doing the exact same thing they've been doing for decades. So why on earth does this still happen?

🔮 Back to the future

Meetings, much like factories, are a relic of the past

You can talk about digital transformation all you want, but I'd go ahead and say that most people are still bad with computers. The way most meetings are done is effectively the same way they were done 50 years ago. Yes, we now have fancy equipment and can set up a video conference call with people joining from San Francisco, Tokyo, Berlin, and a remote village in Normandy. Yet the structure of that call remains the same. People talk, maybe look at some slides. There might be whiteboards. So, indeed, you can (technically) set up that conference call. The real question is: Should you?

The point of a meeting is typically to exchange opinions, to let all voices be heard, to collectively reach a decision. For the lack of a better option, historically people met in person to do so, and indeed it did make sense in the pre-internet days: Face-to-face was undeniably the fastest way.

🗓 Just my two cents

Can we reschedule?

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With new online tools for working together, most likely you don't need everyone to think and speak at the same time, in the same room. You can do a simple poll in a Slack channel. You can exchange opinions in Google Docs comments. An all-hands meeting can be replaced with a well-designed slide deck. People can take their time to think and share their opinion when it's comfortable for them, on their own schedule. Meetings can now be asynchronous.

Obviously, these tools don't magically solve everything. People need to learn how to use them and everyone needs to adhere to the same set of rules and expectations: a common digital etiquette. The downside of Slack is that everyone is now in a meeting all the time. Handle with care.

Surely, it's hard to deny the advantages of speaking to someone in person. And indeed, complex issues and urgent matters are often best to handle face-to-face, with all the arsenal of both verbal and non-verbal communication that we're so lucky to have. But I daresay that most meeting are dealing with rather trivial matters, and do not require “being there” for an entire hour.

As Dr. Steven Rogelberg says in “The Surprising Science of Meetings,” the cost of a bad meeting goes beyond time and money. Meeting Recovery Syndrome (yes, it’s a real thing) puts a drain on employees’ happiness and productivity.

So, we all know we need to learn how to do meetings well. Or at least, do them better. The new challenge we face today is how meetings work in a new world of working — IRL and via Zoom, async or in-person. Ironically, the transition to having less and more productive meetings won't happen without a couple of very long meetings.

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Remote-friendly all-hands meeting

When you think of company-wide updates, all-hands are probably the first thing that comes to mind. But as anyone who has tried to hold an all-hands via video knows, it's not easy. Here’s our solution at Pitch for remote-friendly all-hands that work the way we do.

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Pitch blog, 6 min read

Editor's picks

A list of the essential pieces on this topic

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The New Yorker
MIT Sloan Management Review

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