Doodle’s Guide to How NOT To Hold a Meeting
There are mediocre meetings and then there are terrible meetings, the kind of meetings that leave you wondering how the people in charge managed to hold a meeting that bad. Well, there’s no need to wonder anymore – here, in eight simple steps*, is Doodle’s failsafe recipe for a truly terrible meeting.
If in doubt, call a meeting
You can’t hold a terrible meeting without holding a meeting. And the worst meetings of all are the ones that probably should never have been a meeting in the first place. So get scheduling! Have a simple question that you could quickly resolve in a chat thread? Call a meeting! Got an announcement that you could easily send out in an email? Call a meeting! Ideally, call a meeting that will leave all the attendees asking, ‘Wait, why was this a meeting?’. And speaking of attendees…
The more the merrier
It’s true for parties, sing-alongs, games of Twister – and it’s definitely true for terrible meetings! If half the people you’ve invited don’t know what the meeting’s about and the other half don’t care, you’re on the right track. Of course you could just invite some select stake-holders and ask them to pass any relevant meeting outcomes along to their teams…but where’s the fun in that?
Technical difficulties are unavoidable
Okay, maybe you could avoid them by taking five minutes before the meeting begins to set up all your equipment. But why deprive participants the experience of watching you stare blankly at a handful of cables and swearing under your breath until someone from IT comes to your rescue and plugs the projector in? This is the stuff terrible meetings are made of!
Add an element of surprise by neglecting to circulate the meeting agenda ahead of time, forcing attendees to spontaneously formulate their talking points. With this one stealth move, your terrible meeting is transformed into an (even more terrible) live improv performance!
Agendas are fluid, anyway
Once you’ve sprung your surprise agenda on everyone, you’re going to want not to stick to it. Diversions and distractions are great – tangents are there to be followed. After fifteen minutes or so of off-topic discussion you might notice attendees muttering and fidgeting – a sure sign that you are, indeed, pulling off a truly terrible meeting.
Everyone hates time limits
At least, everyone who doesn’t have other work to do, other meetings scheduled, or a home to go to…that’s everyone at your workplace, right?
But don’t forget to cut things off short
The key here is to make sure the meeting runs way overtime (that’s if you ignored our earlier advice and set a time limit) but wraps up abruptly. Like, really abruptly. So that there’s no time to reach any decisions or outline any further action. And, in the unfortunate event that you do make some progress, it’s important that you don’t follow up. Otherwise you’ll never reach the final, and most crucial step in this whole process…
Call another meeting!
If you’ve followed steps 1 through 7 correctly, the reason you called your terrible meeting in the first place still hasn’t been addressed. Which can only mean one thing: it’s time to call another terrible meeting!
If you want to take your terrible meetings to the next level, here’s an idea: instead of sending out a Doodle meeting invitation, try an old-fashioned email thread. Make sure you cc everyone, so they’re all involved in the 73-email process of finally deciding that Tuesday at 2pm is the best time to meet. Don’t forget to cc everyone again when you realise that, actually, you have a lunch thing then and you need to reschedule. Repeat as necessary.
* Follow these steps at your own risk. Better yet, don’t follow them at all! For advice on how to hold meetings that actually work, check out some of our other articles.
By Jessica Miller
Jessica Miller is an Australian writer currently based in Berlin.