Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trying to Solve the Company Meeting Problem

The image on the left is something that we are seeing more of everyday. People are constantly checking their phones and seeing if anyone liked their Facebook post. However, I am starting to see this more and more with company meetings. After talking to some friends that work with other companies, I am finding that this site is also becoming a "norm". The question is how can we improve these meetings and to prevent people from phasing out?

First we have to identify the problems with "all hands" meetings. The first problem is that people generally do not like meetings. Heck, the term "meeting hell", when you are in back to back meetings, further illustrates this point. In order to get pass this initial hump, then the people need to find a purpose to attend it versus the "I have to go". Free snacks or beer can lure people to a meeting. Game developers love free beer.

Most of the time meetings are held by people that do not have a sense of humor. This is not to say that all presenters need a sense of humor, but humor will keep the meeting mood high and keep people interested. For example, Microsoft's annual company meeting in 2010 had a professional comedian for the show and people loved it. Mind you, this meeting is once a year and when catering to 40,000 people, it better be a show. However, most company meetings are below 500. What then? You don't need to hire a comedian, but having a small joke here and there can help.

So after bringing the beer and preparing a couple of one liners, what's next? Well, is the meeting even needed? Is the data that is being shown be condensed into a biweekly meeting? Developer time is expensive. Really expensive. Let's say you have 100 engineers who average $80,000 a year. That boils down to $40 dollars an hour, roughly. So a one hour meeting will cost the company 4 grand. That does not sound like a lot, but if you meet all 52 weeks then it will cost the company, $208,000 dollars annually. That could be another 2.6 engineers that could have been hired.

There are a few more things can be done to make meetings more efficient, but lets start with the basics. First, bride the masses. Second, bring the funny. Lastly, condense the meetings into a bi-weekly meeting. The fewer the better.

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