The meeting. That necessary evil. That gathering we love to hate, yet can't resist scheduling.
There's a reason meetings are so reviled.
They're poorly organized. They're poorly run. They have no objective. They have no value. People show up for the sake of showing up, and they behave badly.
You're probably in a meeting right now.
Sadly, you are likely part of the badly behaving, no-value-adding, disorganized, meeting-marauding masses.
Just look around the table. Look at those faces—those bored, irate, aggravated, disengaged faces. They don't want to be in this conference room with you. They hate being in this conference room with you.
And that's no good, because if you're in a meeting, there should be a reason. Maybe you're trying to woo a prospective customer. Maybe you're trying to kick off a project. Maybe you're presenting work to a client.
Regardless, if people hate being in meetings with you, you are thwarting your objectives.
Don't let this happen. The first step in healing is to recognize you have a problem. Here's a list to help you recognize why people hate being in meetings with you:
1. You have no agenda.
We all have a mountain of work to do, and meetings take us away from that work.
That being the case, meetings better be worthwhile, because their very existence makes the rest of the day harder.
If you plan a meeting and it's not worthwhile, the people in it will hate you. And if you don't have an agenda, you run the risk of running a worthless meeting.
Agendas don't have to be complex. You should have an objective and a plan. Sure, nicely-formatted agendas that list all of the attendees and have to-the-minute time allocations delineated for each bullet item are nice to have. But what really matters is you know what you want to achieve, and you have some sort of plan to achieve it.
Does this sound like a chore? Does this sound like something you don't have time for? Well, you can spend a few minutes of your time preparing an agenda, or you can waste an hour of theirs. That's your choice.
And when you look at it that way, they should hate you if you don't show up prepared.
2. You talk at them, not with them.
It's good to be prepared, but be careful you don't prepare so much that you turn yourself into a robot delivering a script.
Too often, people come into my office to give presentations. They have slides. They know the words they're supposed to say on each one. And they hurl them at me—like rocks.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
I'm a person. Talk with me, not at me. Look at my eyes. Am I engaged? Am I interested? Is what you're saying even relevant to me?
The first step in communicating is listening. Make sure you bring your ears to the conversation. Nobody enjoys a monologue.
3. You barrage them with data.
People in this business love statistics. They also love to show they did their homework.
The result is an industry-wide pandemic of PowerPoint slides crammed from top to bottom with numbers, percentages, facts, figures and stats—and no communication.
I know you work hard on your slides. Don't you want people to remember them? The way to do that is to communicate one idea on each slide. You want to support it with multiple data points? Great. Use three.
But realize that as soon as you put a laundry list in front of people, they don't see your lovely blouse or cool new jeans. All they see is a pile of dirty laundry.
4. You're overly familiar.
All good salespeople know relationships are priceless. They are worth investing in. They are critical to success.
It's not what you know, it's who you know.
I appreciate you want to have a relationship by the end of this meeting, but don't confuse that with us already having one.
It turns people off, and if you cross that line too early, there's no turning back.
That is not to say love at first sight does not happen in business. Just last week I had a meeting with a potential client. We knew right away we were cut from the same cloth.
But that's rare. If you are wondering if you're crossing boundaries, ask yourself if this is something that's been happening a lot lately.
If the answer is yes, tone it down.
5. You look at your phone, not at them.
Really? You're looking at your phone? I'm sitting here. I'm talking.
Do I bore you? Am I an insignificant speck on your radar of self-imposed magnificence? Can you simply not control yourself?
Of course I hate being in this meeting with you.
6. You talk over people.
I have to admit, I have been guilty of this one so many times.
There's an irony to business. If you're to succeed, you want to find smart, creative, passionate people.
The problem with many smart, creative, passionate people, however, is they just can't wait to share their brilliant ideas with everyone else in the room. They have an answer to every question. They have a hammer for every nail.
Sadly, that's often at the expense of everyone else in the room.
But this is a meeting. People have come here to meet.
Sometimes the question isn't yours to answer, even if you have a terrific response in your head. Sometimes we need to consider the other guy's contribution to the brainstorm before you toss another iron in the fire. Sometimes you don't have complete information, but you would if you'd just shut up for a second.
Let other people talk, or don't be surprised that they hate sitting across from you.
7. You talk just to show you have value, even when you don't.
There is a word for people who do this. It's called being a blowhard.
I think it comes from the notion that one constantly feels the need to try really hard to blow some proof of the value of his existence out of his mouth.
The problem with blowhards is they often prove the opposite.
There's a fine line. When you speak not to add value, but to show you add value, you're probably not adding value.
What's more, what you're doing is transparent, whether others in the room call you on it or not. And they're irritated.
Adam Kleinberg is CEO of Traction. Follow him on Twitter @adamkleinberg. A version of this article originally appeared on iMedia Connection.