Have you ever had a terrible meeting?”
People don’t turn up
The wrong people turn up
You don’t know why you’re in the meeting?
You don’t know the agenda & are therefore unprepared when asked to contribute?
You are unclear of the outcome & next steps?
You are not sure why the meeting is even needed!
Bad meetings lead to a massive amount of frustration and a huge amount of time wasted!
When I first started my career, I was taught a simple tool which can help you avoid falling into this meeting TRAP!
The TRAP technique makes sure that you are clear on the time, resource, agenda and purpose required for a meeting. These elements should all be summarised when inviting someone to a meeting. Completing the TRAP forces the meeting organiser to be absolutely clear as to why the meeting is taking place. Ideally, meetings without a TRAP should be rejected!
So what does TRAP stand for?
Time: explain the time expectation for the meeting (do you really need two hours?)
Resource: explain what information attendees should bring to the meeting, any preparation needed, who should chair the meeting and who should take the minutes.
Agenda: attach or detail out exactly what areas will be covered in the meeting, who is responsible and how your time allocated will be spent – this will give the chair a clear guideline to work to so the meeting doesn’t overrun.
Purpose: the purpose/rationale of the meeting should outline why people are there, your meeting expectations and the intended outcome and next steps needed.
This T.R.A.P list is designed to create more relevant, efficient meetings and aims to ensure everyone attending the meeting:
Knows why they are there?
Is fully prepared for the meeting
Understands the objectives, agenda & output expectations for the meeting (from the outset)
Is given the opportunity to challenge why they are there, send a more appropriate person, add attendees on the invite who it may be relevant to, add areas to the agenda before the meeting etc
In the meeting itself...
Ensure there is a meeting Chair: they need to keep track, keep time & ensure all areas & attendees views are covered.
Ensure there is a meeting Minute Taker: they need to keep a record; for team clarity, to capture action points & ensure in the next meeting that any minutes are complete & communicated.
I have a couple of suggestions for the minute taker (everyone's favourite job!):
Whoever is the minute taker then chairs the next meeting – as this is more efficient as the chair then fully understands the minutes taken
Take your laptop into the meeting & type up the minutes as they are discussed. This saves you writing them out & then typing them up later. This saves time and means that any action points can then be emailed out to the attendees straight away.
Meetings are an important part of working life but even using the TRAP technique successfully, I wonder how much time is wasted in meetings which aren't actually needed?
My biggest frustration is the vicious cycle... meeting = actions when there are so many meetings that you don't have time to complete your actions before the next meeting! Leaving the right amount of time for an action to be delivered is important.
I am also not a big fan of people saying... 'can we take this offline or can we meet separately to discuss xxx?' My reaction is why can't we discuss it now, in the meeting we are already in!
Personally, I believe there is and will always be a place for a face to face meeting. However, I would argue that most of the time the same output can be generated by using a conference or video call. This saves the travel time and the expenses and is a more efficient way of 'meeting'. I accept that sometimes a 'real' meeting will be important but I think it is important to judge when. Do you really need to drive 2 hours each way when you could talk to them from your desk?
If everyone stopped meeting for the sake of meeting, so much more actual work could be done! We follow this way of working at Brand Champions and it makes for a much more efficient and effective project delivery.