While I may not agree with everything our esteemed leader is doing at Microsoft, I do agree with his way of handling meetings.
“I decided that’s not what I want to do anymore. I don’t think it’s productive. I don’t think it’s efficient. I get impatient. So most meetings nowadays, you send me the materials and I read them in advance. And I can come in and say: “I’ve got the following four questions. Please don’t present the deck.” That lets us go, whether they’ve organized it that way or not, to the recommendation. And if I have questions about the long and winding road and the data and the supporting evidence, I can ask them. But it gives us greater focus.”
I find that too many people’s first reaction is to call for a meeting (either in-person or over the phone). A meeting is immediate, in-my-face, and requires a dedicated, scheduled chunk of time. However, frequently it’s someone making a presentation and then sitting there waiting for me to respond. I’d rather get the materials first, review, and send in my initial comments over e-mail. After that, if there is excessive follow-up needed, we can meet and discuss. It’s pointless to have a meeting where I sit there and listen to someone rattle off the exact bullet points I could have read myself on the PowerPoint slide. It’s a waste of the presenter’s time and it’s a waste of my time. It also leads to forced, snap decisions.