There is nothing like sitting in a 2-hour meeting and at the end of it reaching the decision to have another meeting. As application developers, our time is precious. We need time to design, develop and maintain applications – all while everyone from the CIO to the project manager are breathing down our necks, talking about progress and “when can I get this” and “when can I get that”? One of the roadblocks I’ve seen over the years is that meetings often don’t accomplish their intended goal or don’t accomplish anything.
When someone schedules a meeting with developers, they expect to get answers. The problem I see is that meetings frequently get off-course and then everyone ends up frustrated. How do you prevent this from happening? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned to get the most out of developer meetings so that no time is wasted and you and the team can keep moving forward with success.

Tip #1 – Include specific details in the meeting request.

I cannot underscore the importance of this. When I receive a meeting request, it usually includes a subject, a few lines and an attachment. If you want to get answers in a developer meeting, you need to include as many details as possible. Your meeting request should list a goal or a decision that needs to be made. You need to get some information out of this meeting so you can continue with your work. You should also include assumptions. As developers, we love to make assumptions and when that happens you might not end up with the correct answer. This will also stop the unnecessary side conversations that frequently happen at developer meetings. If you have your list of assumptions, you can keep everyone focused on the problem and on coming to a decision or solutions for that problem.

Tip #2 – Invite all necessary parties and make sure they are available.

There is nothing more frustrating in a developer meeting than when you have a solution to a known problem, but it can’t be implemented or decided on because one or more person needed is missing from the meeting. So now, you’re going to have to make another meeting for this person and waste more time and resources instead of getting to the task of implementing the solution. If a key person involved in the project has a conflict or can’t make the meeting, even at the last-minute, you are better off canceling the meeting. The goal is to get a decision made on your problem so you can move forward on your project. It doesn’t make sense to have a meeting just so you have the same meeting again somewhere down the line. You want to have a meeting and come to consensus once.

Tip #3 – Have a meeting “foreman”.

The meeting foreman doesn’t necessarily have to be the meeting organizer, but it’s definitely a role you need. A meeting foreman is someone who keeps the meeting on track. The meeting organizer has the goals they want to get accomplished for the meeting. A meeting foreman needs to eliminate all side conversations and all unnecessary discussions that don’t pertain to the problem at hand. If a meeting is scheduled for one hour, then it should last one hour with focus kept on the task at hand. If sidebars pop-up, the foreman can document the topic and necessary folks involved, and request they meet another time to address the issue. This helps everyone in the room effectively handle (or plan to handle) all of the related dependencies that must be addressed to keep moving forward.

Tip #4 – Take notes!!!

This one always seems to be forgotten. A meeting is completed. You have a set of decisions reached. You leave the meeting. Then, a few weeks later the same issue comes up or maybe a co-worker was on vacation and needs to know what happened in the meeting. Since there are no notes, you now have to replay the meeting all over again instead of referring to your notes. Developers do not want to talk about the same solution over and over again, so take notes and make sure everyone gets those notes at the end of the meeting. If possible, assign someone the task of note-taking, and be sure they log action items, assignments and expected timing. Even better, if the note taker can reiterate that list (or distribute/post it) at the end of the meeting, it will ensure everyone in the room is on the same page.
If you follow these simple steps, your developer meetings will be quick, concise and you will reach solutions faster and ultimately better serve the team.