Problems with Large Meetings

Some kind of problems have always been observed that are associated with large meetings rather than small meetings. By large meetings we mean meetings with generally more than 15 participants, but can go much beyond that, e.g. 40 or even 50. Generally speaking, small meetings tend to be easily controlled than large meetings. Some of the problems are:

Time Consuming

Imagine that there are 40 people in a meeting room, and you are one of them. Even if each of the participants take turn and talk for one minute, 40 minutes will just pass quickly, and a normal meeting would not end just like this. There are usually many discussions, arguments, quarrels among people. Chances are that 4 or 5 hours, sometimes less but sometimes more, are needed for the meetings to have any fruitful result, if at all.

Dominance over Meetings

Sometimes participants of meetings would come from different level of the organization. In the meeting, you may attend, and so may your boss, and so may your boss's boss. Even for a very impartial boss, being in a meeting for 4 or 5 hours can easily make him become impatient. People simply want to wrap up and go. If your boss speaks out, and most people in the meeting support what he/she is saying, you may as well want to agree with your boss, even though that may not really be your intent, simply because you want to secure your job. Bear in mind that your boss knows who is saying what. In this case your boss is dominating the meeting. Besides, giving a totally different idea, to some people, may be just like imposing a threat to the interest of the organization, which you may want to avoid.

Also, it is equally important to realize that it doesn't have to be the boss. Anyone may dominate the meeting. It can be the person sitting just right next to you who is giving such a very beautiful speech that everyone is listening to him/her without realizing that there may be something wrong with the proposal being discussed. Whether you want to speak it out really depends on yourself. Experience (I once worked in a company that speaking out this way is REALLY going to risk yourself.) told me that you have to be very careful with what you said in the meeting, in order to avoid being accused of what I mentioned above, "imposing a threat to the benefit and interest to the organization".

Honesty and Participation

This, of course, will create another problem: simply because you have to blindly support people, or simply because you occassionally have conflicting ideas with some people whom you don't want to confront with, can easily discourage you to speak at all in a meeting. Otherwise, the more meetings you attend, the less honest you may become. Whenever you notice that a person is dominating the meeting, whenever he says yes you say yes, and whenever he says no you say no.

The list of the problems with large meetings (or small ones too!) can be never-ending. The above only lists out 3 more common problems found, and it is where GDSS can be useful to attack the problems.

Last updated on Mar 15, 1995