Why Meetings Matter

This is one of my small addenda to the playbook of the Yale Computer Society.

You might have seen this before. A group of bright college students get together to work on an exciting project — hosting a talk with a prestigious Yale alumnus working in tech, for instance. Knowing that they have a lot to do (ie. invite the speaker, book a venue, provide food, advertise the talk etc) but that none of the work requires them to physically meet, they decide to use just a group chat to coordinate. “No meetings”, they say. After all, being high energy and ambitious, the members of the group like to crowd their schedules with other clubs and side-projects, so a remote project gives them the most flexibility, allowing them to work whenever they can.

“when talking through a chat we can’t guarantee that everyone will pay attention”

Pretty soon they will start running into problems such as poor communication and lack of progress. To begin, group chats are great tools for clubs but usually don’t replace actual meetings, physical or virtual. That is because when talking through a chat we can’t guarantee that everyone will pay attention. (Some services, like Slack, try to fix this by adding special types of notifications and the ability to pin messages. Even then, it is still up to users to make sure they read the messages.)

On top of that, delegating and following up on assignments will be equally hard, as it is easier to be ignored over chat or email. By the time they realize that weekly meetings are necessary, everybody’s agenda is so packed with other responsibilities that conflicts and delays are inevitable.

For college students with busy schedules, physical meetings with fixed times are the best way to get everyone on the same page and communicate critical things. When school work and other responsibilities start to mount, the first thing students delay is work without a strict deadline, like the talk event in this example. So by not setting fixed meetings times when they are compelled by peer pressure to show their progress, they are risking the success of their project.

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