By far the mode of receiving information that I find most challenging is the meeting (actually the conference call is a bit worse). Lucky for me government runs mostly on meetings and I now attend a lot of them. As evidenced by this blog my home field for communication is writing. When I have in-person conversations I often later forget things or I miss details. Despite all my efforts to avoid meetings and communicate that they are a terrible method of communication for me, it is challenging to teach old dogs new tricks (in this case the “memo” or “note”).
At MAPC I attended a facilitation training lead by a couple of our long time agency employees. This training provided a framework for running a structured meeting that valuably relied upon a written agenda. It also dispersed responsibility so that a person has to keep time and take notes. This dispersal of responsibilities allows most of the attendants to better focus on the meeting itself. They know how it will run and have a structure before hand with notes afterwards.
When I am in a meeting that is not run in this manner I usually bring my iPad and attempt to take notes. The challenging part of doing this is that my focus is divided between the effort of note taking and actually thinking about and contributing to the meeting content. Overall this is not optimal, but I have found it to be the least worst approach.
For the most part my attendance at meetings, given how challenging I find them, is not usually for my benefit but for the benefit of other people whose styles favor verbal communication over written communication. Otherwise I use them mostly as an attention focus mechanism. In a world where people can easily shuffle around their own work and priorities, scheduling a meeting is a good way to force them to focus on something. Also having a regular check-in about a project is a good accountability mechanism that sets a rhythm for progress.