Your fourth hour-long meeting of the day may have convinced you that all meetings are useless and hopelessly, irrevocably boring.
Not so, says Jon Petz in his recently published Boring Meetings Suck. In his world, meetings are productive events at which information is shared, perspective is offered and everyone emerges better for having been there. They are also quick and even rare.
Find out if the fantasy he describes could be your reality.
The most important thing is an engaging presenter. That means no hiding behind a PowerPoint. Also no um's or aaah's or monotone or fidgeting
- PowerPoint sucks - actually, PowerPoint can be effective but it is never a substitute for an engaging message.
- Um...aaah sucks - what linguists call 'neutral vowel sounds' are death to engaged listening; practice in front of your family, the mirror, the computer, whatever it takes to rid yourself
- Monotone speeches and movements suck - tedious monotones and fidgety twitches are a sure-fire way to inspire blank stares and longing glances at the door
- Run and Drag: Tempo makes all the difference; speak more quickly to show excitement, slower pacing to make a point.
- The Effective Pause: Silence can feel wrong but pauses allow and encourage your audience to think, place emphasis on an idea without beating it to death, and breaks the monotony of all those words, no matter how riveting
- Stories: Anecdotes engage the audience, makes abstract data real, and allows a more personal voice
- humour: Even if you can't tell a joke or have no sense of timing, levity (verbal, visual) is still an option
- Movement and Eye Contact: Move but don't twitch, make eye contact but don't stare
- Body Language: As important as anything you say, with it you build rapport, share emotions, and make an audience more comfortable with you and more open to listening to your ideas
Certain types of meetings deserve special mention for accomplishing too little and taking too much time
- Conference Calls - Too often absence or lack of moderation; background noise; unidentified speakers; regular beeping and other technological glitches that make it feel as if it were 1984; and promises of later conversations that make the current one sound like the less interesting one
- Sales Meetings - Information overload and meetings that don't justify the time they take away from actually selling anything
- Online or Virtual Meetings - When the technology becomes the point of the meeting, rather than the agenda
- Friday Meetings - enough said
The best first step to meetings that work: give technology a seat at the table instead of yelling about it
Make all of your meetings:
- wifi fully accessible
- cell phones out and on (set to vibrate, of course)
- texting encouraged
- agendas, supplemental materials, and visuals provided on the web, exclusively
- all resources and iPads (and other netbooks) -friendly
In other words, the meeting is about to begin, please make sure your phones are out and on.
Meetings in which bodies are present, but minds are focused on texts, twitter, and whatever else is blinking in their palm enter the 21st century.
When you hold the meeting on the device, let the bodies stay where they are, your meeting becomes the centre of attention. There is something satisfyingly subversive and incredibly time-efficient when your meeting takes over the means of distraction.
Brain-storming sessions too often fail to gather the best ideas and even more often turn into a test of endurance for all concerned. And that is after the struggle to find a time that works for many complicated schedules.
The solution: The Open House Meeting is one that has a start and end time during which all of those invited may come in for a short period of time to share their ideas. The results are higher turn-out, more thoughts expressed, and less resentment by the whole.
When people stroll into meetings, slouch into a seat, and slip into their meeting-coma, it is doomed before it has even begun. The first step? Remove the chairs. All of them. You take away the place to hunker down and get comfortable and keeps everyone on their toes.
If the meeting should last half an hour and you want to make sure it does, making everyone stand is a sure-fire way to get people to the point and move on.
When time is of the essence, a few structures that produces more per minute:
- Two 'n Out: Take a page from ESPN's 'Pardon the Interruption' in which hosts are given two minutes at a time to debate topics - have a meeting in which the agenda moves efficiently as each speaker is allowed a timed, two minutes in which they may say what needs to be said (and only that).
- Step It Up: Stultifying conference rooms inspire ideas born of a lack of oxygen. Take the meeting to the stairs and let each speaker have a flight of stairs in which to speak their mind on a given agenda item.
- I Gotta Use It: The meeting ends when the first person leaves to use the bathroom.
Plagued by complaints of boring meetings, poorly led? Too many people think they could do it better if only someone let them. Well, if everyone thinks they could do it better, let them do it.
Weekly meetings with rotating leaders shakes things up, let's new ideas (or lack thereof) fly, and gets everyone involved. And, it sends a 'put up or shut up' message out into the office that inspires people with ideas and quiets those who don't.
- Do you have to have a meeting at all?
- Is there another way to disseminate and/or gather the same information?
- Will our organisation be better off after the meeting is held?
- Will the solution be better implemented, be better understood, for having been discussed at a meeting?
- Am I having this meeting to highlight or otherwise pat myself on the back (and no other reason)?
To buy the book, click here.
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