A couple of years ago I came to an interesting realization — I could not remember a single one hour meeting that really needed to take one hour. Sure, we would fill the time. But the content didn’t really warrant one hour. In subsequent meetings I tried to focus on where the time was going and learned that it wasn’t just that the meetings went on long after they were over. I also noted that the people in charge of the meetings (in my case, the auditors who were presenting their work to me for review) weren’t entirely sure what it was they were trying to say. It was if they were using the meeting to organize their thoughts.
I set a new rule — no more one hour meetings; all future meetings to be one-half hour. It was amazing how we all seemed to accomplish the same thing in half an hour that had previously taken one. And, it was amazing how much better prepared everyone was.
Now, I try and follow this whether someone else is requesting the meeting or I am. And I’ve learned another benefit — people are much more willing to agree to a half hour (or 15 minute meeting) than a full hour. And, again, if you are really ready, it won’t take any longer. (And, there is nothing more exciting than having an executive tell you he wants to talk longer, so he is cancelling his next appointment.)
Which leads us to my latest discovery about conciseness and preparedness — Twitter. (Arghhh! He’s not still on that is he? Wait. Hear me out.) As I’ve prepared a few posts for Twitter I’ve learned what a challenge it is to get my thoughts condensed to just 140 characters. (Look at this entry as an example.) But I’ve also learned that I can usually get to the nugget of the thought without sacrificing that much. Sure, some of the nuance is lost and I may have to sacrifice a favorite word; but, it still says what I mean for it to say.
And so, my new challenge (to you and to anyone who has to get a point across verbally or in writing). Can you express your thought (the objective of the audit, the findings of an audit, the core point of any meeting) in 140 characters? And characters include everything — every letter, every space, every comma, every period. And don’t use shortcuts. 4 is not “for”, 2 is not “to”, and I refuse to even accept there is such a thing as “LOL ;)”.
Those are the rules — proper English, 140 characters, and get the important message across. It is hard to do at first, but your writing will be much stronger and your meetings will be more powerful for understanding what you want to say.
(Keep all replies to 140 characters.)