My blog about knowing what you want when you're networking (a job, an article, or whatever) triggered some more thoughts about knowing what you want in other situations. This post is about meetings.
I hate meetings. One of the great things about having so many remote clients is that I don't have to go to meetings. [Many years ago we were doing some work that ended up in Visual C++ 4. One day my Microsoft contact called me, saying "I'm just going into a meeting and need to know a, b, and c." We talked for about five minutes and then he headed off to the meeting. Four HOURS later he called me back to tell me the results of the meeting and as I got off the phone I was filled with gratitude that I had not been in the meeting. It's been an important part of my business model ever since.] But if you're going to go to a meeting, the least you can do is make it worthwhile. The key to this is to know what the meeting is for and what you want from it. These are not always the same thing at all.
Every meeting, no matter its nominal purpose, can give you something you want. A status meeting is an opportunity to be recognized for recent accomplishments and to get the credit you deserve. Or perhaps it's an opportunity to get a decision maker to make a decision the way you want it made. A sales meeting is easy; you want the sale, or permission to submit a proposal, or to be put on the list of bidders. A "let's get this stuck project unstuck" meeting or a kickoff meeting have obvious purposes, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't stop to think about what you want from them. Do you want to be assigned the unsticking tasks? Do you want a deadline moved? Do you want someone else's behaviour to be redirected?
Occasionally I wander into meetings without particularly thinking about what I want from them, just because it's the regular meeting or because my client invited me. Those meetings are boring and horrible. About 90% of the time I decide in advance what I want from the meeting. I usually put a little thought into how to get it, but what seems to really matter is just knowing what I am aiming for. Almost without fail, I get it. (If I go as part of a team and discuss it out loud with my team mates before we go, I have never got less than I wanted.) And this isn't just a matter of taking advantage of the unprepared people who wandered into the meeting without a plan and can be bent to my will . The really neat meetings are the ones where everyone in the room knows what they want and we dispense with the rest of the nonsense and get down to brass tacks. Then we really get things done, and I don't hate those kinds of meetings at all.