What really IS a Meeting?

“When you go to meetings…and you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. It is simple but true.” – Paula Abdul

So here are a couple of meeting definitions:

1. The act of coming together.

2. A body of persons present at an assembly.

Note the emphasis on the body of persons being together.

A worrying terminology has begun to creep into the business language, at least in the US. This is not about all the acronyms such as B2B and CRM and sports analogies, such as, “He needs to step up to the plate.” When I first heard that one I thought it referred to an individual who wasn’t tall enough to sit at the dining room table! That’s of course before I started watching and appreciating baseball!

No, what I’m referring to is the use of the word meeting being used for any interaction with someone else. Meetings apparently now can be pre-booked audio calls between individuals, audio or video conference calls between several people or just a chat on the phone!

Recently, I was on a call with two lovely people from Intel, Kevin and Emily. They work in the Partner Marketing Group and we were discussing Key Initiatives for one of their accounts. During the discussion they mentioned that they felt it necessary to have weekly meetings with a certain individual. I queried this because the individual concerned is based in Taipei and they are based in Santa Clara, CA. What they really meant was a weekly conference call.

Most of what I do is about helping companies understand and practice how to better identify, build and measure relationships.  Relationships are formed by understanding each other, sharing things and building trust and respect. This is incredibly difficult to do if communication is limited to just telephone calls. So what worries me is that people now refer to meetings as anything that involves any form of communication with someone else. This assumes that all interaction is a meeting. But, if we look at communication as being three dimensional; i.e. words, tone of voice and non-verbal behavior; verbal is only one dimension. But more importantly, it is by far the least important.

3_V_copy1Research carried out by Albert Mehrabian in the 1970’s, claimed that these three elements of communication account differently for our liking of the person who puts forward a message: words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking. They are often abbreviated as the “3 V’s” for Verbal, Vocal & Visual. Even if you think these percentages are exaggerated, they still reflect an emphasis.

If that’s the case, then surely we should try to have a person-to-person meeting whenever possible! As expenses become more scrutinized and travel budgets get cut, digital technology appears to offer many options, but they are NOT meetings. Rather than just stop traveling and using the phone, I would suggest a better option is reduce business trips and plan them much better to get the very most out of those meetings. Pre-plan the meeting; what are our Objectives, what is our Customer’s Notion, Best Possible Outcome and Least Acceptable Outcome, all of which I have discussed previously.

I would strongly suggest that the answer is NOT in relying more on technologies and calling the use of them, meetings.

Let me know what you think!

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