January 26, 2020
According to research by Professor Steven Rogelberg 50% of meetings are seen as engaging, this means that 50% are not.
From my own experience I would have to agree that most meetings are not very useful. So many meetings would be better as an email or a wiki document.
There are some common types of communications in organisations where the default mechanism is create a meeting.
To handle these scenarios you should write a document (or email) and ask for feedback. Maybe afterwards you can organise a meeting to discuss feedback but start with a well researched and written document.
You compliment writing with relevant meetings afterwards. They will re-enforce your message. You’ll be surprised how little you need to do these follow-ups.
Not all meetings are a waste of time.
Regularly getting together for townhalls is great for alignment.
Whiteboarding problems with peers generally leads to better solutions and running your project kick-offs in person is a wickedly effective method to start with an engaged team.
Even the meetings you run in person are far more effective if you write appropriate material before and after.
Any time you need to give feedback, do it in person. Give feedback in person first and maybe follow up with an email as a record and to clarify.
I use the following steps, systems and checklists to avoid meetings and write effectively .
You need to start with writing down the specific outcome you want. Start at the end. What is the pain for the organisation that you’re trying to relieve?
Write down who your audience is and target the contents to them by identifying how the change or information will benefit them.
Remember this writing is not going to be about what you want, but instead how it will benefit your audience.
Think about what they are optimizing for and how you can help that. You should try to target one audience at a time. For example this document…
|Desired Outcome||Audience||Benefits to them|
|More peers using the written form instead of ad-hoc meetings||Leads of creatives||Less time in meetings, increased audience, better decisions|
If you’re struggling to frame the content as benefits to the audience, you might be shouting something no one wants to hear. Reconsider sending the content.
The writing is going to be very different for different organisations, topics and audiences.
I’ve taken some amazing lessons from the book On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
For technical writing you should try to start with a summary that is easy to digest. Present a single piece of interesting information. After presenting the audience with one piece of new information think about what question they will have. Answer that question in your following paragraph and provide another nugget. Repeat.
Here are some structures/systems for how to approach content.
Start by getting the readers attention. Then build their interest - what’s in it for them if they continue to participate? Speak to their desires and finish by specifying the action they need to take next.
Try to elicit the audiences’ emotions, but never be manipulative.
Your audience will go through states as they consume your content. When you start they wont care much about what you’re saying. Again you need to catch their attention, fill in the details and finally specify the call to action.
Ho-hum: introduction, the audience is bored, get their attention Why bring that up? - build a bridge to get the audience to understand why it relates directly to them For instance: give the audience specific concrete facts and stories to get them thinking So what?: The call to action. what do you want them to do?
There was a time when, but today things have changed, as we look into the future…
Now that your piece is complete give your writing some time to settle. Do not write last minute.
I use this checklist when reviewing my writing
Writing more will reduce the number of meetings you have to facilitate and attend.
Writing is not better than meetings where collaboration is key. I love a good whiteboard session or project kick-off with all stakeholders in the same room!
Writing well is difficult and takes practice. Use systems to help!
Hi! I'm Darragh ORiordan.
I live and work in Auckland, New Zealand enjoying the mountains and the ocean.
I build and support happy teams that create high quality software for the web.
Contact me on Twitter!