Meetings are Effective, If Everyone Gets What They Want

Empty Meeting Room Image

This philosophy was developed when I was still in school; I was working on a senior project with about 8 other people along with a faculty sponsor building a leaning recumbent tadpole tricycle. The sponsor organized a meeting with a representative from a large company who was willing to donate some sheets of Lexan for our fairing in exchange for a better understanding of some of our design considerations and how we solved them. It was a 1/2 hour meeting, my first real business meeting so I didn’t know what to expect, but what transpired just got me really upset.

After brief introductions the sponsor rambled on about god knows what, nothing about the project nor our idealized exchange of resources and information. After 30 minutes of this rambling the representative closed the meeting by mentioning he had another meeting to go to, asked us his 3 questions, thanked us for our time and left the room. Boy was I steamed because I felt that he got what he wanted but we didn’t.

Walking away from that experience I was reflecting on the different people in the discussion and how each person wanted something different.

  • We wanted a promise of our sheets of Lexan
  • The representative wanted the information he came for
  • Apparently the sponsor just wanted to talk

When planning meetings now I try to think about what each person in the meeting wants and do my best to ensure they get it. Some people have questions to be answered or issues which need to be solved by the group. Others feel like they have something to contribute to the topic. Still others only attend the meeting because they have to and want to get out of there as quickly as possible. Because of them I am the first to cut a meeting short. If there is nothing more to discuss, end early.

Looking back on the meeting I had in college, there was probably more going on which our sponsor didn’t disclose to us because a few weeks later our sheets of Lexan showed up and we moved forward with building our fairing. But I still felt like I learned a valuable lesson that day about how to lead and attend effective meetings.