By Candie Harris Anyone who has worked in an office environment knows firsthand what a time waster meetings can be. But, when done correctly there is no better way to communicate and get things done. I challenge anyone who hates meetings, and has not found them to be productive, to try a new kind of meeting – a coffee date meeting. Here’s why they are a powerful way to make great use of time while enjoying the beverage of your choice!
Getting to/from your locale
Whether you choose to have your meeting in your cafeteria, break room, or an outside coffee venue (preferred!) you will need to get there and back. You can use this valuable walking time to set the tone for your meeting. In Arianna Huffington’s new book “Thrive” she talks about her preference to schedule hikes instead of sit-down meetings because she discovered that she came up with some of her best ideas while hiking. You can use your walk time for small talk (most regular meetings start with some sort of talk unrelated to the purpose of the meeting) and/or use that time to begin to address the purpose of your meeting. And while walking back you can reinforce any decisions or action items that came out of your discussion.
In a recent blog post titled “The Ugly Truth About Meetings: Why They Are Such a Time Suck" a survey found that one of the main time wasters is because of multi-tasking of participants. During a coffee date meeting it is difficult to multi-task. Your conversation is in a more public place, and your actions are on display. Unless you specifically need a computer or smartphone, you probably are just talking and perhaps taking or referring to hand-written notes. Even if you are using an electronic device, chances are it is being used for the specific purpose of the meeting, and the participants are gathering around the device. It is difficult to multi-task on your electronic tool when everyone is using the same one!
The most productive meetings typically are ones where time is limited. If you are meeting in a ‘non-conference’ room, chances are you will be confined by smaller space and time constraints. Especially if you meet in an outside venue, you may feel "guilty" about sitting at a table longer than it takes to drink your beverage. Setting the time for the meeting to the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee or tea will ensure that you stay on topic and focused on achieving the objectives of your meeting.
The act of bonding
Although social media and technology have encouraged "digital bonding" and "virtual meetings," there is still no better way to get to know another person than by talking with them face to face. By sharing a meal (or in this case a beverage), you get to learn a little more about someone. That knowledge can play an important part in improving working relationships and teamwork. Although it may seem counter intuitive to productivity, the experience of meeting while engaging in a more "social behavior" goes a long way in soliciting alternative viewpoints and gaining consensus – which is usually the reason that meetings take place. And finally, who would argue with the statement that it is a lot more enjoyable to meet in a more interesting environment than your typical conference room?
How do you feel about meetings? Please share any ideas you may have to make them more productive?