How to Have a Successful Meeting: Why bother?

I completely messed up my first job at LifeWay.  I was fresh out of college (10 days between graduation and day 1 on the job), had a creative position, and thought I was something special.  The dress at LifeWay is business casual; I work ripped pants and often forgot to comb my hair.  I kept odd hours.  I was, for all intents and purposes, a mess.

One magical day, however, I surprised everyone and dressed up - suit coat and all.  The reason?  I had a meeting to go to, I had a goal I wanted to accomplish, and I was meeting people outside of my department who I hoped I would one day get to work with.  In short, I looked forward to that meeting with Scott Allen and Ken Dean more than any other thing I had done up until that time.

I'm an odd bird in this: I love meetings.  I seriously, absolutely, love meetings.  One of my favorite moments of my job was when I realized that I had 16 meetings in one week.  I get a thrill out of it because so many times I'm able to come out of a meeting and think, "we're changing things for the better."  And, at LifeWay, changing things for the better means changing people's lives forever.

As such, as I continue to learn tips and tricks about how to have successful meetings, I'm going to share them here on my blog for the world to see.  I hate that meetings have gotten such a bad rap.  I always feel like the awkward kid a dance; I'm excited for another meeting when so many other people see them as nothing but a nuisance.

The most important key to a successful meeting is this: is the meeting necessary?

The reason people have such an aversion to meetings is because they've been to too many meetings that were pointless.  There was no goal, there was no outcome and that was truly accomplished was a distraction from the daily work.  Pile too many memories of wasted time, and meetings become something to dread and despise.

So what makes a meeting necessary?  Why should one even bother with a meeting?

A meeting is essential when, simply put, two humans abilities are not enough.  If two people can get it done, no meeting is needed; instead a simple conversation or working lunch will get the job done.  If the work you're doing requires the input, abilities and acknowledgement of two others (or more... and less than say... six others), a well-planned meeting is the most effective tool.

A meeting is not strictly a scheduled time at a scheduled place with a set agenda; a meeting should be a literal meeting of the minds.  A meeting should always result in an output that is greater than the sum of its parts.  A meeting is where you get support, buy-in, and - sometimes - can disperse responsibility.

I have seen magical things happen at meetings.  I've seen people invent entirely new marketplaces, I've seen people break down a "no, it's impossible" to "we can do that, just let me know what you want," but I've also seen dreams fall apart and uninformed decisions alter the course of good products.

I'm an optimist, I know.  I go into every meeting with wide-eyed wonder and excitement about how my job might change in the next 45 minutes.  Hopefully, over the course of these little tips, we can learn how to better control the expectations - and outcomes - of your meetings.