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TED Talk Tuesday: How to Stop the Plague of Pointless Meetings

Cornerstone Editors

This post is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

David Grady is a certified information security manager at Verizon, and believes that strong communication skills are necessary in today's global economy—particularly when it comes to the modern workplace.

In his TED Talk, Grady explains how poorly run, inefficient meetings are taking over the business world—and how they're making employees miserable and businesses less productive. He argues that pointless meetings can become productive in no time with the help of a few key tools: the "tentative button" on calendar requests, asking questions and creating agendas.

Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from his talk:

"Everyday we allow our coworkers to steal from us."

Grady explains that our coworkers are taking one valuable thing away from us every day at work: our time. He explained this phenomenon as "MAS"—Mindless Accept Syndrome. According to Grady, employees have an involuntary reflex to automatically accept every single meeting calendar request that comes through their inbox.

Meetings are extremely important for getting work done. As Grady says, "Collaboration is key to the success of any enterprise." However, when those meetings don't have an agenda, include too many people and end with no goals accomplished, there is no one to blame for wasting time but ourselves.

"A well-run meeting can yield really positive, actionable results."

Technology has changed the way we work, particularly with the invention of conference calls and online video conferencing. Grady says although this new technology allows us to reach more people, we're not happy. He referenced a YouTube video he made that acted out every bad conference call scenario. The video has over one million views, and the comments are extremely relatable. Factors like unprepared moderators, interruptors and late arrivers make this new technology worthless.

But as one employee, you are not worthless. You have the power to say "No" to mindless meetings. It's okay to click the "tentative" button on the calendar invite for a meeting, ask the moderator what the meeting is about and inquire how long they expect it to run. The more questions you ask, the more they have to really think about their agenda.

"People just might start to change their behavior because you changed yours."

By asking the moderator questions, you're showing them that you want to make the most of their time as well. By understanding how you can help them achieve their goals in the meeting, they'll be more thoughtful of your time and treat you with the same respect that you showed them.

If the meeting is not worth your time or expertise, then decline to attend. As Grady believes, as more people ask questions and our conscientious of their own time, more people will be conscientious of others' time by sending out agendas, or scrapping pointless meetings that could be replaced by email. Overall, fewer, better meetings will save everyone time and avoid frustration around the workplace.

Photo: TED

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One of the basic premises of being an effective leader is to have regular one-on-one meetings with your staff. Yet often, these meetings feel like torture to the employee, lacking forethought and focus. In such cases, leaders need to recognize that the value of these interactions extends beyond mere formality. To make these one-on-ones effective, leaders should prepare for each meeting, set clear agendas and actively listen to their employees' concerns and feedback.

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