I don't fancy meetings.
As much as I can, I try to avoid meetings. My philosophy is - if it can be done through a 1pager memo, with 10.5-12font Arial font-type (or its equivalent in email), then so be it.
Even if it's a brainstorming meetings: I believe that brainstorming is far more effective if everybody dumps their ideas on one wiki-like page with the same rules of "no deletions/objections", "no mistakes", and "quantity over quality" is done before an actual face-to-face brainstorm is done.
[OK, perhaps, it's true for numbers-orientated brainstorms where some form of pre-brainstorm analysis is necessary. And some charts need to be at least prepared and interpreted superficially.]
Meetings, I believe, are a great time waster.
And in the same bucket of time-wasters are teleconferences - where everybody waits their turn to speak whilst someone else drones on on the other end of the line.
If it can be done via email, then so be it.
I agree that meetings indeed are marketing in real-time with real people. (He cites conferences as an example. And I agree with that, too.)
But not all meetings are "marketing" meetings.
Some meetings are merely a waste of time.
Work-in-Progress meetings - for example - are a great time-waster. Can't it be done online? There are a lot of collaborative software and systems available. Why not use them? Sure, building relationships - and marketing - is critical and will demand face-to-face meetings. But every week work-in-progress meetings, I believe, are simply a waste of time.
If the object of the meeting is to build relationships, then the progress-check meeting isn't the right place.
To build relationships, one has to show up.
And showing up in relationships don't necessarily mean being just physically present - but really, deeply listening - regardless of whether it is in the form of face-to-face meetings and physical conferences, web-based brainstorms and communications, emails and even interactive webcasts.
[To show up means to give one's 100% attention (and something else!) to the person - in whatever form is appropriate - meetings or otherwise.]
You can schedule hourly meetings or weekly meetings or daily meetings - or even conference calls or web meetings or IMs every hour - and not show up.
And not showing up is not marketing.
Thanks to Eschipul from Flickr.Com for the photo above.
Seth Godin also suggests two types of questions:
- Questions designed to honestly elicit more information.
- Questions designed to demonstrate how much you know or your position on an issue and to put the answerer on the defensive.
I think that the first one is clear enough. And I have encountered people who do want to elicit information - because they want to know, because they can use those new things that they would have been told to do something better with their life or their work, because these are things that stoke their curiosity.
The second one I think needs elaboration:
- Questions designed to state what you believe in - and in all honesty, seek a challenging view with the hope that what you believe in could potentially be improved and be made better by a dissenting view.
These are questions that has some tinge of "eliciting new information".
I can name three or four clients who I admire for their sharpness - and their tough questions: They ask questions so they can see more clearly whether their preconceived answers are indeed correct - or could be improved upon - or downright wrong.
- Questions designed to say "I know more than you do" - and "you better say the same thing as I think - or else...".
I don't have data on this phenomenon - but most of the people I have met in the past - clients and peers - have this conscious or unconscious intent.
They get into the meeting room with a predefined set of questions - and answers set in stone. And if the answerer says a dissenting view, "you're wrong..."
- Questions designed to introduce a soliloquy.
These are the questions which border on the rhetorical and the philosophical ("Tell me, what really is a brand? What really is brand equity? And what do you mean by engaging the consumers in a very deep manner? Why should we create brand ambassadors?") - followed by a monologue on the merits of branding, engagement, and brand equity - usually introduced with "When I was in university..." or "According to Malcolm Gladwell..." or "Chris Anderson thinks that..." or "<Insert management/branding guru's name here> believes that...".
And everything else that veers away from the topic at hand.
Almost all questions can put the answerer on the defensive - even those that honestly elicit information. Because there is an element of "what if I don't have the answer?" We can't outguess one another. We can't read minds (yet).
But there are questions that put the answerer on the defensive - and yet feel confident and calm that the question is not being asked because of malice nor with the intent of "checking whether you - the answerer - are right or wrong".
In one of my leadership training courses, before we were to ask question to the facilitator or to someone in the group, we had to declare that we are asking a "clarifying question". If we were to ask a "question that challenges", we were to declare it as such. If it were a personal viewpoint, then - well - it wasn't a question, but an opinion. And therefore was not allowed.
[Asking questions is a great avenue to learn, to improve, to widen one's knowledge - but it can also a veiled attempt to assert one's superiority, to flatter, to achieve something else beyond answers.]
Photo from Oberazzi from Flickr.