'The Making Of A Manager': How to run a productive meeting that doesn't suck, according to Facebook's VP of product design Julie Zhuo

'The Making Of A Manager': How to run a productive meeting that doesn't suck, according to Facebook's VP of product design Julie Zhuo

Work smart

Text: Aravin Sandran

Image: Getty Images

#1: Invite the right people.
There's nothing worse than beginning the week on a Monday morning with a soul-draining meeting. The moral is low, people around the table look faded and distracted on their laptops or phones. What's more, it goes nowhere in the end and you leave it feeling more dejected and disconnected from the work in front of you. If you are leading the session, ask yourself whether all of them need to be in attendance. You'll find that the answer is probably not more than half of the time. The tricky part is, in fact, figuring out who to invite and that is rooted in how you see the outcome for the meeting. Whether it's a decision that needs to be made or brainstorming ideas for an upcoming event, invite only those who are necessary to make that happen. Leave the rest alone and your co-workers would be grateful that you respected their time.


#2: Once you've invited the right people, give them time to come prepared.
You've probably sat at meetings where the presenters whizz past slides so fast that they leave you scratching your head. Processing large chunks of data requires time, so if you know you'll be presenting, you might want to send out your documents beforehand so your audience can take the time to look through it and understand its finer details. This will give them the chance to be a better contributor during the meeting and you're more likely to receive constructive feedback rather than radio silence. There might be times when your presentations are prepared last-minute. In that case, email an agenda or brief outline of what you'll be covering so the meeting stays on track and focused.

#3: Create a safe environment for everyone to contribute their thoughts and ideas.
Singaporeans aren't exactly known for speaking their mind. In fact, we are known to listen intently then unleash a relentless stream of consciousness during lunchtime or a similar informal setting. The common sentiment is that we are afraid of being judged for our feedback or opinion in front of everyone. On top of that, there'll definitely be one or two loud talkers who end up dominating the discussion. If you're leading the meeting, manage the airtime everyone gets by being aware of interruptions (especially when a woman is speaking) and anyone who seems like they've got something on their mind. As for those who have plenty of criticism and nothing concrete to carry the conversation forward, politely let them know that it's time for someone else to have a word in. 

#4: Save yourself by declining meetings.
More than social gatherings, our calendars are often bogged down with meetings. Sometimes, they happen back to back with little time to recuperate or work on the stuff that really matters. If that's the case for you, reflect on the meetings you've attended in the past month and how they made you feel at the end of it. Did you leave the meeting feeling more clear of the outcomes expected in the future? Did you contribute something significant? The answer more often than not is no. Meetings may sometimes feel like we are keeping busy at work, but in reality, they are simply conversations that direct our work. We still have to sit down on our own and get our stuff done after. In some instances, there'll be meetings that creep up with no clear agenda or outcomes drawn up. Do everyone a huge favour by letting the organiser know that the matter might be est settled in another format, either in a one-to-one or at a later date when there are more details. Most of our life is spent at work if you think about it and staring blankly at each other during an unstructured meeting with no purpose is simply not worth it.


These tips were extracted and edited from The Making Of A Manager by Julie Zhuo, who currently serves as Facebook's VP of product design.