Category Archives: Producing

You Don’t Know How Good Every Painting Is Until They’re Gone

They say all good things come to an end. In the case of podcasts and online video series, I suppose you don’t know how good a thing is until it’s gone.

So it was with some sadness that I took the time to read the postmortem by Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou explaining how their YouTube series, Every Frame a Painting had come to an end. A friend and fellow fan of the series sent the essay to me and I had to pause before going through it in depth.

Yes, this is still a “Motivation Monday” post. Stay with me.

If you haven’t stumbled across this series before, it’s a lovingly obsessive look at the craft and technique that goes into making movie magic done by some lovingly obsessive creative folk.

I first got to know about the series with their piece on Akira Kurosawa:

 

Another favorite is about the “Spielberg Oner.”

Even though I’ve been a cinematographer for only a few projects, I know how much work can go into making moves like these look so organic and effortless. That makes me love them all the more.

And it also motivates me to go out and make something extraordinary. If you’re a filmmaker, go on and watch a few yourself. See if it doesn’t inspire you to approach your next project with more verve.

But don’t forget to read through the postmortem. It shows what level of love and dedication it took to make what these “nutrient-rich” videos packed full of insight. And it explains why they decided to move on.

But the motivation remains. Kudos to Taylor and Tony — and I know I speak for many when I say I hope we see you online again sooner rather than later.

This Summer Means Hollywood is Doomed…. Again

Every summer –for at least a decade or more– the Hollywood film industry has been doomed.

I would imagine they must get sick of all the doom, what with being doomed with the advent of television, the disintegration of the studio system, the rise of VCRs and video stores, online streaming, streaming services like Netflix making their own content — and possibly avocado toast.

Nevertheless, within the traditional ‘doom’ narrative, there may be trends, so I read a recent piece by David Sims in The Atlantic with interest about Hollywood’s “bad movie problem.” Just like last year, there seem to be a slew of high-profile blockbusters that underperformed domestically. This year, however, Sims hypothesizes that executives are running out of gas with their strategy of mining known IP for all its worth regardless of demand. He bases this not a generic “doom” observation, but that the studios are using tactics internationally, specifically the Chinese market, that are netting less overall profit. Oh, and the films are still doing bad domestically (ahem: bad movies).

Indeed, over in the Hollywood Reporter, Scott Roxborough and Patrick Brzeski detail the wave of political slings and arrows that may sour all the Chinese-American film synergy. Moreover, several of the media monoliths now owned by Chinese concerns are experience firsthand on their balance sheets what it means for North American box office revenues to slide. In fact, John Nolte over at The Daily Wire suggests that, yes, it really is a bad movie problem. The American viewing public has figured this out and both box office and home video revenues are slumping accordingly.

So is this the Final Doom?

I mean, Spielberg released the BFG, so maybe…

It strikes me that movies and related “more passive” visual entertainment are still a potent pop culture delivery device. They’ll be around for quite some time until companies figure out how to make virtual reality more economical and interwoven with our habits like turning on the TV in the evening or going to films on weekends. If or when that happens, expertise in films and such will likely pour into those interactive productions. The companies that exist today could definitely transform into interactive powerhouses through building up their own capabilities or through acquisitions.

Though, frankly, I love films and TV as-is and hope there’s always going to be a place for them (same with books as my bulging bookshelves can attest). And I hope some of the studios pick up on what Sims pointed out in his article: that some of the best grossing films so far this year have been non-franchise original works… that not coincidentally didn’t cost as much to produce.

Tune in for a similar article next summer!

Threat Alert Thursday: Cyber Attacks on Small Businesses

Since mentioning yesterday about creatives needing to put their marketing hat on and be the small businesses they are, it seemed like a good idea to share this article from The Hartford about various types of cyber attacks that can befall small businesses. Our creative endeavors often fall into this realm.

The article also links to a brief guide that, in order to get it, harvests your email (again, a reference to yesterday). It’s not a bad trade off in my mind, but relationship disclosure: I’ve used The Hartford for my general business liability insurance and found them great to work with. Therefore, I’m inclined to pay more attention to their articles and am already on their mailing list.

Russell Nohelty Wants to Help You Sell Your Soul

Last week, I pointed out an article about how to promote one’s film via social media. I like occasionally linking to pieces that are straightforward and give one practical tips for when you have to wear the marketing hat.

Because let’s be honest: I know I’m not the only creative who doesn’t love wearing that hat. Oftentimes, it seems to involve activities which are anything but creative and pushed by people who clearly want their photo as part of the dictionary definition of “unctuous.”

I worked for a while on search engine optimization (SEO) and related concerns in the early naughts as part of my job managing web projects. I decided to abandon getting better at it because of the prevalence of “black hat SEO” activities. In fact, many good practitioners of SEO appeared to be, at best, “Grey Hats” using purposely inscrutable, self-serving jargon to advocate strategies that would be outdated with the next tweak to Google’s search algorithm.

I do not consider myself a marketer.

However, I’m convinced that rejecting the marketing hat completely is going to damage my creative career in the long run. Since all of us have different comfort levels with selling ourselves and our work, I don’t want to be too prescriptive, but admitting you need to wear the marketing hat means several things to me.

It means I might not want to tune out everything a marketer has to say. Lord knows a disproportionate number of marketers talk at me, never asking about what my problems are because they’re so sure of the rehearsed solution they’re speechifying. But there are those marketers that listen and share the fruits of all their listening.

It means I might really want to harvest some emails. Yeah, I used ‘harvest’ on purpose. Does it make you feel like some insidious alien spreading sliminess into an unsuspecting populace? Me too. But the truth is that email marketing can be one of the best ways to engage your audience.

It means I need to Vulcan up and admit that my creative endeavors do constitute a business (assuming I want to make a living from my creative endeavors).

Storyteller Russell Nohelty is a lot less reluctant to wear the marketing hat, perhaps because he’s made the jump from writer to writer and publisher.

He’s created a Facebook group for fellow creatives to compare notes and note triumphs. He also does a podcast called The Business of Art that features some great interviews with creatives who are making it work. Finally, he has a forthcoming book called Sell Your Soul, which distills many of the insights he’s talked about via the Facebook group or the podcast (and, well, making his company a profitable concern).

It was reading the first part of his book (which you can do for free at the link above if you allow him to, yes, harvest your email address), that made me think about writing a post. Because, honestly, he shares a lot of great practical advice and resources — and a heck of a lot of it is free. So if you’re working on comics or writing or other creative endeavors, do yourself a favor and check some of it out.

You might find a marketing hat you’re comfortable wearing.

Promoting Your Film on Social Media

Indie producers always need to wear lots of hats — and one of them is often that of marketer. And since we don’t have the funds for a conventional ad buy…

Welcome to social media marketing.

No Film School has a post about promoting your film on social media — and while it has some nice tips and tricks throughout, I especially like the thought given to voice and what the different channels (e.g. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are good for.

For the producers among us who are also writers, the talk of “voice” can be a character, and the channel or platform can be a genre. And that’s something we can energetically explore.

Business Plans Without Pitfalls

Between yesterday and today, you could accurately deduce I have business plans on my mind.

Today, I wanted to share another article I found on Entrepreneur. This one goes over six business plan mistakes to avoid. Many of them are ones fellow filmmakers and I have discussed (especially about #4 and money) and, hey, it may be useful to you.

The Different Audiences of a Business Plan

The folks over at Entrepreneur created an article outlining the different types of audiences you may have for your business plan.

I love this, because so many people like to harp on “your business plan” as if it’s this One Holy Thing your business needs — without defining it beyond the black box of the buzzword term “business plan.” (See also vision statement, mission statement, term du jour that boils down to knowing what you’re trying to do and how you do it.).

“Know your audience” is a common refrain for many creatives, so I suppose it makes sense knowing who’s looking over your business plan and why is obvious. But it’s a nice summary and, for me at least, a reminder that no one business plan would necessarily meet the needs of all the different audiences.

Recommended Reading: Artistry & Entrepreneurship

A certain cavegirl reminded me of a long article in The Atlantic by William Deresiewicz charting the evolution of “the artist.”

I first read it a couple years ago, but it remains quite relevant in 2017 — perhaps more so. It delves into what it means to be “a creative” in the world today and even touches on the commodification of “being creative.”

Commodification isn’t the only concept in the article that triggered memories of my anthropology studies. There’s also the whole aspect of how institutions have grown and changed in respect to supporting artists — or, perhaps it would be better characterized as how institutions and their support have both shrunken in respect to artists. They’re hardly the only group in our modern economy where that’s the case — though that is one of the reasons reading the article was so relevant. How does one make a living as an artist? What’s the new paradigm?

The safe, if selective, employment of artists and artisans by institutions (such as it was) is now all too clearly being replaced by entrepreneurship (again, not something unique to creatives and something people have noted for some time). So unless universal basic income becomes a reality (an unlikely event anytime soon), we all must become our own “brand ambassadors.” And chief cook and bottle washers.

And that’s something I’m not altogether happy with, not just because the term “brand ambassador” makes me mildly nauseous. I mean, it’s not like I’m not painfully aware that brand management is important (hello! you’re reading this on BjornMunson.com). However, the entrepreneurial vision pitched is that now we must all manage our own brands, pump our own gas, and possibly be our own tax attorneys. I’m not always happy about doing two out of three of those things — and I’m often concerned about getting it wrong… or not right enough.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy being a jack-of-all-trades. Anyone who’s spent enough time in filmmaking has learned you need to know at least a little about a lot of things. But I’ve been at this for a while. So although I’m by no means terrible at either camerawork or editing, I’d be a fool to ignore that some of my peers have done both of those tasks for a few thousand more hours than I. So just because one can do it all, maybe they shouldn’t. This is not to say you might not use a project to improve a particular skill (e.g., I’m going to edit my next project to maintain/improve my mad editing skillz). At the same time, if one wants to use a given project to improve, say, their camerawork, maybe they shouldn’t try and also improve their editing, directing, acting, and screenwriting on that same project.

So that brings us back to our networks of people. That’s the part of the equation no one writes articles about… or I’m missing them (feel free to put suggestions in the comments). Luckily, there are certainly organizations and sites where one can find networks. There’s TIVA and WIFV here in DC as well as Facebook-based groups. If there’s others, let me know.

In the meantime, I need to go clean out some bottles…

Harsh Truths about that Collective Hunch that is Reality

Although I’ll frequently list articles worth reading on the blog –such as the changing dynamics of film financing or the automation of work— I rarely do “listicles” not only because they’re usually slick, quick pieces designed as clickbait, but also because they don’t give me too much upon which to reflect.

Perhaps it’s the timing, but this Forbes(!) listicle by Jessica Hagy made me reflect about what I know now that I don’t think I understood just 10 years ago. I read it a couple weeks ago and put it away in my backlog of “blog posts to do sometime”… and given the saga that unfolded in the comments section of this past weekend’s post, I figured now was the right time.

Even so, I hesitate to share these type of articles because they tend to share all their list items like Commandments and really, they don’t have any added weight of any aphorism. I have long been convinced that reality is one collective hunch — and while aphorisms can help as shorthand in making sense of it all, aphorisms are just as often deployed dishonestly in order to avoid addressing the real issues.

For example, one of my brothers and I both dislike the phrase “shit happens.” This isn’t to say that you have to deal with unexpected crap in your life from time to time (or during some periods in your life, a lot of crap), it’s rather that the people who most often use the phrase “shit happens” seem to want you to “just deal” with the lemons life may be handing you with a certainty that makes you suspect they may be a lemon salesman.

No, both in reality and idiomatically, shit happens because someone takes a shit. That’s how digestive systems work. Now, I admit that if that someone is a gibbon or baboon, there’s very little you can do about where and how they take a dump. In fact, you better watch out, ’cause that crap is about to get flung. However, for us Homo sapiens sapiens, we are able to control when and where we take a dump for most of our lives… and we certainly don’t need to take a dump on another person.

Guess which people most fervently uses the phrase “shit happens?” That’s right: people who want a free pass to shit on other people.

I mention this in order to make sure you feel comfortable taking the whole Forbes list with grains of salt to your personal taste. The list worked for me as I’ll detail below, but perhaps it won’t all work for you.

10. If you’re not being taken advantage of, you’re not making anyone any money.
Boy howdy could this notion be abused — and I’m sure it is by people who fancy themselves “masters of the universe.” However, this idea was the one that really made me stop and think about the whole list more deeply.

The clickbait portion is certainly the phrasing of “if you’re not being taken advantage of” which hits people right in the binary win/lose meter. But stepping back, I’m thinking of the statement in terms of value propositions. If you’re not offering clear and unambiguous value to someone, then they’re not benefiting from dealing with you. And as I’ve mentioned in some of the project management training I do, the real trick in project management is often dealing with us pesky humans (and all of us are pesky to someone else… see #5 later in the list).

Another way to think about it –something one boss of mine was and is fond of saying– is that you have to answer the other person’s omnipresent question, “What’s in it for me?”

Too many times in the indie/aspirational film realm, I’ve dealt with people who don’t work at answering that question. Now, granted, some people evidently want the value proposition to be insanely skewed to their advantage. And they’re not ashamed of the disparity at all. I imagine they’re training to be “masters of the universe,” but the main thing is you need to be giving someone else value for what you’re doing. Almost always, that’s going to mean they get more value than you get. As Hagy notes, “All services cost less to deliver than they do to undertake.” — at least if the services are to be sustainable.

What really drives this point home for me is how it can apply to someone who’s self-employed or a freelancer. When I was a freelance stage technician, the commercial gigs setting up lighting, etc. in hotels for conferences paid waaay better than the gigs at small non-profit theaters even though the hotel gigs were, by and large, way more boring (i.e., had less value to me personally).

Not only that, when you’re a freelancer, it’s tempting to take all the time you need for personal projects, but You the Creative needs to be “taken advantage of” by You the Small Businessperson if you want to pay bills. (As much as I’d like, playing Civilization all day pays no bills, no matter how much you build up your cities).

Finding that balance of getting personal value versus delivering value to someone else appears to be one of those lifelong pursuits. It took a long time for me to be at peace with that (and having a sucky job with one of those would-be masters of the universe will not help in that regard).

9. Your brain is constantly lying to you.
The really smart people I know are ones who know how much they don’t know — and I imagine a lot of them work to fight the cognitive biases inherent in the notion above.

I suppose you could be really depressed by this state of neurological affairs, but I’ve come to view as a reason to keep on learning… including learning how you can trick yourself. Two podcasts, Freakanomics and Hidden Brain, have been a fun way for me to explore this.

8. Your problems are not on most people’s radar.
Here’s something that hit me hard in my 20s (and then again when I became a parent, but that’s another story) — and I think it relates to #10 above. What you value may not be what others value. Likewise, your headaches may not be others’ headaches.

As with a lot of items on this list, this presents a choice: you can be depressed by the reality or you can figure out how this knowledge can inform your actions.

As a project manager, I’ve found it’s useful to try and understand other people’s headaches. An account executive I used to work with called this “finding out what keeps them up at night.” As a human being, it’s good for me to try and better empathize with people. In a way, it continues my stage management training of “mouth shut. eyes and ears open.” Better listening always helps.

7. If you quit your job, someone else will take it. If you quit your life’s work, nobody will swoop in to finish it for you.
Firmly rooted in the notion above –and something I need to remind myself to prevent my creative passion withering away– is the fact that no one will fight harder for your dreams than you will. Not your family, not your spouse: no one (hopefully those people will fight for you in general, but they, naturally, have dreams of their own, however similar they may sometimes be to yours).

So to be clear: many people can support you in pursuing your dreams… but in the end, they’re your dreams.

6. You’ll never get a day off from your responsibilities.
I still remember when I decided to get to the next level of adulting and bought a condo. The first time something broke, I paused for a second to try to remember the landlord’s number. Then I realized it was me.

Then there was becoming a parent, and responsibility went to a whole new exponential level.

In cases of both homeownership and parenting responsibilities, you have to laugh. In the case of the latter, there’s Fowl Language.

5. Somebody thinks you’re what’s wrong with the world today.
Yes, thinking of the aforementioned comments extravaganza and the nastygrams around Axanar made me think blogging about this listicle was pertinent today.

Before I became a doubleplusungood anonymous blogger in the estimation of certain fan film fanatics, I was a nemesis to a disturbingly large number of office dwellers. This is because a significant chunk of my professional career has been devoted to documenting and, where possible, improving business processes. Mind you, this almost never leads to people needing to be laid off, but it does entirely puncture some people’s M.O. of being indispensable because they are The Keeper of the Secret Knowledge.

I don’t have time for that. The entire trajectory of the modern workplace doesn’t have time for that. And most importantly: petty close-minded people who want to be Keepers of the Secret Knowledge tend to add to rather than reduce the number of overall Work-related Headaches.

It’s taken a while (see #2, below), but I’ve made peace with the fact that I may have enemies. But, more often than not, they’re insular, selfish enemies who feel other people deserve headaches. As long as I’m continuing to try and know a bit more about what I don’t know (see #9) and am not crapping on anyone, it’s okay. The Keepers of the Secret Knowledge can join the rest of us any time they want.

4. Things will change with or without your input.
As the writer notes, you might as well try and move the needle towards your desired future. I’d also note that scumbuckets will use this notion to try and dissuade you from trying to influence the needle at all, possibly because they think you’re what’s wrong with the world today. They can go play with the poo-flinging gibbons. You have stuff to do.

3. Nobody cares about that great work you did yesterday.
For the producer and project management jobs I do, I am gratified to know when I do a good job. But what does that get me? The chance to do a good job again. My satisfaction needs to come from doing the work, not resting on laurels.

It also tells me that trying to place all my life satisfaction in my work alone is a fool’s game.

2. You don’t fit in with every group, and you never will.
Who doesn’t want to be liked? How many situations to you want to “get along to go along?” But if you accept #5 above, you can more easily accept the fact that you don’t grok some people, some people don’t grok you… and some people are wondering what the heck the word “grok” is right about now.

The dangerous downside to this is to become too ensconced within your “tribe” that you cut yourself off from learning new things and generally listening.

1. You’re good, but not as good as you could be.
Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight” – Tom Stoppard

I view this very much like #9 above. I can choose to be depressed about the reality of the situation, or, as Tom Stoppard points out, I can shift my weight. This also connects to #3 and not resting on one’s laurels.

I’ve actually been pretty comfortable with this for a while, in part because I’ve been blessed with being around people who taught me excellence isn’t always being the best, it’s about always working to do better by your own standards.

So I suppose this is where having honest people support you and your dreams helps, huh?

Okay, that’s enough for philosophical posts for now. I promise to do a wonky project management post soon.

Meetings and Purposes: Different Types of Meetings

If you’ve gone through the trouble of regularly creating a meeting agenda and gone a step further in crafting the agenda so it has an easily understood purpose and objectives, you’ve probably realized a central truth.

Not all meetings are created equal.

No, I don’t mean that some meetings are an abysmal waste of time and may, in fact, endanger your long-term health. Unfortunately, that may be true. I mean that you’ve probably realized that one meeting format doesn’t fit every need.

Especially as you are bombarded by people eager to innovate the dickens out of your workplace and “maximize value streams” or whatnot, you might be pressed to change how you’re doing business. That’s not bad, but as some improvement coaches can be hammers in search of nails, it’s important to remember:

One meeting size doesn’t fit all.

If you’re sincere about trying to make meetings effective –not just blocks of time people get together because “that’s what’s done”– and if you want to be honest about your meeting purpose, you’ll know that one meeting format does not work for every purpose… or even group of meeting attendees.

I can’t say I’ve got a magic formula for this, but especially with those of you who are tasked with being in charge of a project or a program, I think it’s useful to think of three different types of meetings. Those are:

  1. Status Meetings (Ongoing)
  2. Issue-Based Meetings (Sometimes Ad-Hoc)
  3. Lifecycle Meetings (Planned Status and Issue-Based Meetings with limited duration)

These three broad categories give you a framework for how to plan meetings — and to better understand what meetings you need to accomplish what objective. Let’s delve into each type:

1) Status Meetings
PMPs and other project managers are probably very familiar with one form of this type: the Weekly Project Status meeting. Most, if not all, of the project team meets to review the schedule, how we’re on track towards approaching milestones, and reviews project risks, issues, and action items.

“Daily Huddles” and “Daily Scrums” are also versions of status meetings. For many teams, these daily meetings have replaced the longer half-hour to hour weekly project meetings they previously held to monitor progress.

The frequency of the meeting usually indicates whether the discussion is more about tactical matters or strategic matters.

For example, if you’re finding your team is having problems with niggling impediments like software licenses or access, you may want to fold in some form of daily huddle to catch those issues quicker. Likewise, if you feel your team is getting a lot of “actions” done, but you don’t seem to be getting closer to your overall goals, you might need more status meetings where strategic goals can be discussed and further defined (note: depending on what level you’re at, this may depend on strategic conversations happening above your pay grade, but hey, at least you’ve identified the need!).

And be open to the fact that you might want and need both a daily and weekly status meeting. For example, the daily huddles could be purely about individual team members’ progress and impediments, while the weekly meeting could be status reporting with both the team and external stakeholders.

In all cases, be mindful of the audience and the purpose of the status meetings to ensure you’re not repeating the same message to the same audience. In fact, you want as much of your status and reporting to be accessible to most stakeholders (if possible) outside of meetings so that status meetings can be more about status questions and concerns, not simply information delivery.

2) Issue-based/Ad-hoc Meetings
These are one-time meetings or a series of meetings held to accomplish a specific objective.

You may recall that, during regular status meetings,  an issue might come up and someone, usually the facilitator, says, “Let’s talk about that offline.”

More often than not, that offline talk is going to be an ad-hoc meeting.

(Yes, that offline talk may be 2 people for 15 minutes, but even if it’s quite informal, it’s still a meeting to be held.)

Not all issue-based meetings need to be unplanned or reactive, however. If an executive has formulated a new initiative, your standard operating procedure may be to schedule a kickoff meeting or brainstorming session with the appropriate stakeholders.

You also may find that, due to uncovering some risk or issue during your regular status meetings, you need to have a series of meetings to address said risk or issue.

Two examples come to mind from software projects. In one case, we found out user acceptance testing wasn’t going as smoothly as we wanted and some major defects were found: defects bigger than we expected that jeopardized the release. We established a series of meetings with both business representatives and the developers to go through what workarounds could be created and what parts of the scope could be pulled back because it was determined we needed to launch “something.”

In another case, we were deep into development when we discovered a huge disconnect between the business and the IT teams on the requirements. We set up a daily meeting for a week to work through a host of previously unasked questions. The combination of all the stakeholders attending and a daily cadence meant a lot of the bull we dealt with previously fell away.

In both these cases, these issue-based meetings were in response to issues that came up with the project or program and needed to be addressed outside of the normal status meetings.

This it’s why it’s all the more important to understand the format and agenda for your status meetings. Sometimes, you can fit in the risk or issue at the end of the meeting after the main business is concluded (and attendees who are unaffected can leave). Regardless, it’s critical for any ad-hoc meeting to have an objective in mind, even if it’s simply to figure out which stakeholders are needed to discuss whatever risk or issue needs to be discussed.

3) Lifecycle Meetings
On one hand, these are simply variants of the first two categories: any lifecycle meeting is going to be either a status meeting or an issue-based meeting. However, I find it useful to think of them as a third category because of our natural tendency to want to “solve things once.”

Put another way, many of us want so much to establish a routine, we forget we could have a subroutine.

That’s where the Lifecycle meetings happen. For those of us that have done publishing, product launches, or software releases, there are certain meetings you have through the lifecycle of the said launch or release. There are checkpoints and reviews and tollgates that ideally occupy their own space and time separate from a status meeting. In addition, they’re not –or shouldn’t be– ad hoc. You know you’re going to have a meeting on that issue or topic and so you plan for it.

Here are some examples:

  • Before greenlighting the product launch, you need to have a meeting with marketing and legal to address any concerns they may have
  • Whenever you stand up a new technology system, you always need to walk through security and privacy impact assessments with your Information Security group
  • You hold a series of requirements gathering meetings with stakeholders before beginning a design phase
  • Before you conduct a software deployment, you go over the release plan for that weekend.
  • You conduct a series of user acceptance test sessions
  • Right before a product launch, you hold a series of training sessions for your customer support staff, so they can answer questions about the new product
  • Right after a product launch, you have a daily status meeting to check on how it’s doing and address any “early life support” issues
  • You have a series of lessons learned meetings with stakeholders after any project to help prepare the overall Lessons Learned document
  • And so on.

Remember, there’s often a temptation to stuff in some of these topics and work into existing meeting structures. And depending on the maturity of your meeting culture, this might work out fine.

But look at all those examples: you know you’ll need some of these meetings. Many of them are almost certainly going to involve people not in your regular status meetings. And there’s no reason to put off scheduling a meeting if it or a dependent outcome is in your project schedule.

And this is one of the other reasons I like to break out the “Lifecycle” meetings from both the status and issue-based meetings. Because people push back at planning for possible meetings the same way they often push back on risk planning (“there’s just too many variables!”), but they have a lot harder time arguing against things like planning to get input on requirements and such.

And once you have a lot of these lifecycle meetings identified and planned for, you might find a lot of the ad hoc meetings are simply unplanned versions of them… and in some cases, you’ll be able to plan for those meetings next time.

Because the life you save from abysmal, soul-sucking meetings may be your own.