In Depth

What startups get wrong about meetings

Hasita Krishna
19th Nov 2016
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Meetings have a bad reputation for being unproductive, and with good reason. Several people fumble when it comes to conducting meetings efficiently. Startups, however, cannot afford to make mistakes even with their meetings, because in a new team pitched into a fast paced environment, every minute counts. Here are some things startups go wrong with.

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They never begin on time

Whatever world-changing commitments leaders may have, a 10 AM commitment to their employees means 10, not 10:15, and certainly not 11. When leaders begin to project the idea that in-house meetings are not important to them, employees follow the same path. This can be very damaging at a time when your culture is still blossoming.

The solution: Turn up on time, always. Set an example and people will follow.

They go on forever

They begin at tea time and cover lunch, snacks and sometimes even dinner! There is absolutely no problem in the world that requires that kind of time, barring a national emergency. Why, then, would anyone want to stretch these meetings? Most often, never-ending meetings are the result of not having a clear-cut agenda.

The solution: Put someone in charge of preparing the meeting’s agenda and keeping it as crisp and concise as possible.

The conversation is random

The team has met to discuss a specific set of issues. Everyone has the agenda in place. Yet, two hours into the meeting, there’s no end to the agenda. Conversation topics range from when to have the next meeting to what to order for New Year’s Eve. This often happens because the meeting doesn’t have someone with an eye on time.

The solution: Designate someone as the meeting’s moderator, someone who has a great sense of time. Tell them that they are to gently bring the discussion back to the issues at hand.

People don’t share their concerns

No matter how old we grow, we’ll always be embarrassed about asking questions. When ten people meet and discuss, eight of them would have doubts, but no one would ask them. As a result, no concrete action ever comes out of the meeting

The solution: Have a separate Q&A section towards the end or after each important section. When the time to ask questions begins, get someone sitting by you to ask the first question and proceed to answer it fully. This will prompt the others in the room to begin voicing their concerns.

People go into meetings without complete information

Especially in a startup, a lot could have happened since the agenda was set a day ago. In such a scenario, not everyone in the meeting might be on the same page, as a result of which you’d spend a lot of time bringing people up to speed.

The solution: If you think something major has happened which would affect the meeting’s agenda, either postpone it to a later date or spend a while at the beginning explaining the recent development.

Meetings can be places where amazing levels of brainstorming happen, if only we didn’t digress as much as we do. By staying on track, effective meetings are a real possibility. You can even use technology such as meeting software to your advantage, as long as you don’t waste more resources setting that up!

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