Scheduling a meeting with a busy IT person can be hard. And even if you manage to schedule the meeting and they accept, there’s a chance they might not show up if you do it wrong. To avoid meeting fail, first of all, understand the IT person’s viewpoint on meetings in general.
- They think meetings are boring. Why? Because they are. Compared to doing almost anything else that would interest a technically minded person, your meeting is BORING. I promise. This is why you’ll see all the IT people in the room paying more attention to their laptops than the meeting. They’re multitasking to prevent their brains from turning a pulpy mass of sadness and dribbling out of their ears.
- They are busy. Assuming even a basic level of competency, IT people have more work than they can cope with and astonishing amount of pressure to get it all done. Your meeting isn’t an excuse for them to set their pile of work aside for a while to enjoy donuts and camaraderie. Instead, it’s a impediment to getting their work done. Why? Your meeting eats 30-90 minutes of time they could have spent doing something otherwise productive.
That mindset is what you’re up against in general. More specific to meeting invitations in general, there’s other caveats to stay away from to avoid meeting fail.
- Realize that not all meetings are necessary or productive. Don’t schedule a meeting just because you’re feeling lazy. Too many people schedule a meeting as a way to put off making any real progress on a project or finding out what they need to find out for themselves. IT people can see through that nonsense, and don’t like their time wasted.
- Don’t schedule at a clueless time. Don’t schedule first thing in the morning or during lunch. IT people use these slots. First thing in the morning, the IT person has to review system alerts, check for infrastructure abnormalities, and deal with issues. Lunch is…lunch. Don’t schedule during the lunch hour, even if you’re a workaholic who works through your lunch hour everyday. It’s just rude and demonstrates social ineptitude on your part. Also consider that IT people often work strange hours, because they have to do their equipment maintenance at a time that the business will not be impacted. Therefore, the time you’re asking for might be hard for an IT person to make, depending on the night they had previously.
- Don’t forget an agenda. That agenda should explain exactly what’s going to happen in the meeting as well as a link where people can find key information about the topic or project. This will define the purpose of the meeting and the contributions attendees are expected to make. A meeting with no agenda sends the message that you either don’t really know why you need to have the meeting or couldn’t be bothered to exercise the courtesy required to explain what the meeting will be about. Both situations are disrespectful of your attendees, and this is not lost on an IT person with a lot to do.
- Avoid standing meetings at all costs. Standing meetings are calendar black holes that inevitably accomplish almost nothing and/or involve more people than are necessary. Often, standing meetings are the result of projects. Therefore, every person that’s ever been involved with the project no matter how minor the contribution gets invited to the standing meeting forever and ever, even if they have no ongoing role. A standing meeting is often a way of saying that you can’t be bothered to think about who really needs to be at your meeting or why, so you’d like everyone there, just in case. Rude, rude, rude. IT people are going to skip these meetings if they can’t see any real reason to be involved.
My final word on meetings is to work hard at being such an effective communicator day-to-day that you don’t need to have them. So very much can be accomplished via e-mail, IM, and intranet web sites. USE THEM. Let the IT people do what they need to do. That said, if you have to have a meeting, do it right to avoid meeting fail.