Meeting Mania

By Robert Goldman

April 29, 2021 5 min read

If a meeting is scheduled and no one attends, is it still a meeting?

The answer is yes. It's a meeting and a darn good one, too.

Emigrating from our offices may have made it more difficult to get work done, but it has made it a whole lot easier to have a whole lot of meetings.

No longer does your manager need to gather the troops and herd them into a crowded conference room. Now, all your manager has to do is pull up her laptop and, in a matter of a few clicks, the troops are assembled in a spacious meeting room in cyberspace.

But making meetings easier to arrange does not make meetings more efficient. It's tough to sit through a meaningless meeting when you face irresistible distractions, such as a productive nap on the living room settee.

Julia Wuench can help. Her article for Forbes, "The Four Steps That Will Help You Decide If A Work Meeting is Necessary," suggests that the best way for managers to make meetings more effective is by having fewer meetings.

Can your manager follow the four steps? Here's how you can help:

Step. No. 1: "Does a decision need to be made or are you disseminating information?"

Managers love the spotlight. Toiling quietly in the shadows does nothing to enhance a manager's credibility or display their personality, if they have one. The idea of calling a massive meeting to dramatize a message that could easily fit in half a tweet is catnip to these corporate drama queens.

Wuench understands. "If you find yourself invited to a meeting where you don't feel you can or will be able to make an impactful contribution," she writes, "opt out of it."

Agree 110%. I recommend you send a simple "meeting participation email" upon receiving an invitation:

Dear Manager:

Is this meeting necessary?

Is my attendance necessary?

Is your existence necessary?

Signed, Interested.

If you don't get a reasonable response, opt the heck out, but be careful. Opt out of enough meetings and you may also opt out of a job.

Step No. 2:"Who do I need in the meeting?"

This is tricky. On one hand, you want your manager to invite only the employees who can make a meaningful contribution. On the other hand, you don't want to be excluded from so many meetings that your manager starts wondering if you can make a meaningful contribution, period.

When we were in our offices, all you had to do was walk casually back and forth past the main conference room several times an hour to see when meetings were going on and who was attending.

In cyberspace, all sorts of meetings could be going on and you'd never know. The only way to handle this is with another simple email:

Dear Manager:

I have not received a meeting invitation in three weeks.

Have you lost my email address?

Have I lost my job?

Have you lost your mind?

Signed, Concerned.

Step No. 3: "How urgently do we need the meeting?"

It would be nice if managers actually scheduled meetings "when other, higher priority deadlines aren't looming." The problem here, as you may have noticed, is that managers tend to the think that their priorities are higher than other priorities, such as breathing.

Again, your response should be to reply to every meeting invitation with a request for a time requirement:

Dear Manager:

Can this meeting take place in a week?

Can this meeting take place in a month?

Can this meeting take place in the future, in a galaxy far away, in a black hole, so we can time-travel back to the present?

Signed, Trying to Be Helpful

Step No. 4: "How long does this meeting really need to be?"

According to Wuench, "A productive meeting should not outlast the attention spans of those attending it."

Since your attention span is a tiny bridge over a teeny river, introduce your manager to the concept of the "minimeeting." In an office setting, that's a meeting that lasts no longer than the time it takes to choose and eat a donut.

Think about it.

How many meetings have you attended in which you have accomplished nothing beyond the donut stage? This is why every virtual meeting invitation should be accompanied by a virtual donut that disappears, bite by bite, crumb by crumb, until the screen goes black and the meeting ends.

This will give you time to run out and get yourself a real donut. Get a dozen.

Hey, someone has to keep the donut shops in business. Might as well be you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: geralt at Pixabay

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