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Five lessons from David Brent about what NOT to do in meetings

I read a fascinating piece by Phoebe Luckhurst in Londons Evening Standard, discussing how boardroom meetings are wasting companies’ time and money. According to Nest CEO Tony Fadell, it costs his company between $50-100,000 in salaries to host them so it’s obviously important to get them right. 

Im sure weve all been to a meeting where we have no idea whats going on and nothing seems to be resolved by it. None of us more so than the characters of trans-Atlantic TV success story, The Office. But what can we learn from our own David Brent about what NOT to do in meetings

1. DONT turn up unannounced ? and expect people to be ready to deliver what you need them to. Blocking out a clear and convenient time for all parties is essential so people have time to prepare, call ahead (particularly if you no longer work for the company!).

2. DONT pretend you didnt receive the agenda like David did when sat in a meeting and asked if he had anything to add to the agenda, which he had thrown in the bin upon receiving. People need to know why theyre giving up their time and whats expected of them so they can prepare appropriately. If you’re in charge, create and share an agenda in advance.

3. NO long solos Meetings should be a collaborative discussion, not a forum for one person to take centre stage to voice their personal opinions or drown out others (or sing the Free Love Freeway with an acoustic guitar). Ensure you give everyone the chance to share their thoughts, maybe even asking individuals to run certain sections and always welcome contributions. Definitely dont ask people to get out if they question what you’re saying remember that challenging thoughts and opinions is what often leads to better, more informed ideas and decisions.

4. AVOID sitting down for each and every meeting, while the most senior person in the room stands up at the front leading in David Brent’s case dubiously. Standing up keeps people engaged and energised. Allen Bluedorn, a professor at the University of Missouri, conducted a survey in 1998 that found that although standing meetings are typically shorter than sitting meetings, they still contain roughly the same quality of decision-making.

5. DONT whisper or talk across people even if you’re hiding your face behind your hand. And definitely dont tolerate this behaviour from others. If you’re organising the meeting, be confident about asking people to wait for a moment to let another finish their point rather than interrupting. Encourage those who often stay quiet to contribute by specifically asking them for their opinion on a matter.

Nicola Frazer-Reid is marketing manager UK & NEMEA at Mindjet.

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