Why most meetings suck, and what to do about it

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings

You know how we all like to complain about the problems with bad meetings…?

Here at No More Boring Meetings, we prefer to offer SOLUTIONS rather than complain about the problems.

We believe that meetings themselves should be solutions—and that we must start to hold solutions rather than hold meetings.

It’s time to a Declaration of Meeting Independence—and revolutionize how we plan, stage and experience meetings of all sizes.

3 easy ways to revolutionize meetings so they don’t suck:

1. Declare independence from a rigid agenda

For many meetings, working from an agenda often means reporting a wide range of ideas, reports, “check in’s” and unfocused presentations, with little or no common thread. Instead, as you plan your next meeting (um—SOLUTION!) … whether a departmental meeting or a large event…first determine:

What is the BIGGEST, most pressing problem is this meeting supposed to solve? What question does my meeting ANSWER?

Then be SURE that every element of your agenda supports that concept and that desired outcome.

For example: let’s say sales reps are selling without the most current insight learned from the last three focus groups. What needs to happen so they have the most relevant data by tomorrow?

Solution: John, Mary and Amed, who each led a focus group, will meet from 9-11am. All will come to the Solution with a report showing the top three findings and product changes as a result of their focus group. Then, on their own, sometime between 11-4pm, each will enter the key product updates into the database. So, by 4pm, all sales managers can print and distribute updated product specs to their salespeople.

In the above solutions-scenario:

  • Only the key players are invited to the meeting–no extraneous people who would otherwise be distracted, thinking about all the work they SHOULD be doing.
  • There’s absolutely no room in the discussion for any other topic beyond focus group results and product updates. That is, whenever someone tries to meander into a different subject, you have carte blanche to table it for another time.
  • When the Solution is completed, there is a tangible, measurable outcome associated with the time spent.

Even the largest meetings, including multi-day employee events, will be more focused and effective when this problem-solution question is asked.

2. Throw off the shackles of PowerPoint

We all know that too much PowerPoint can ruin a meeting. Every single day in our Free Country, we are wasting $250 Million due to bad slide decks. For proof, click this link. (Note this is 2001 data; adjusted for inflation, more than $310 Million—every day!)

Why? A lack of solutions-thinking. Most presenters use their slides as a forum to share seemingly endless amounts of data….charts, graphs, statistics….ad infinitum.

So how do we move beyond data dumping and start experiencing Power-FULL presentations?  Again, the answer lies in Solutions-thinking.

Effectively designed presentations do not start with opening a PowerPoint template and creating bulleted lists and pie charts. They begin—and end—by carefully deciding what your #1 purpose is in delivering the program. What change do you want to invoke in your audience? What SOLUTION do you want to provide? What IS your most POWERFUL Point?

Start your planning at the end—with what you want the audience to take away—so your presentation is more interesting and effective… and streamlines your thoughts, saves you and your audience time, and earns you higher ratings as a presenter.

Then it’s time to build your deck, which is all the easier, because every single slide must support your most Powerful Point.

3. Tap the Power of the People (aka listen to attendees)

We all want our contributions to matter, in and outside of meetings. Younger generations in particular crave participation. Two easy ways to ensure everyone’s voice is heard at your next meeting:

  1. Use audience polling….via the next generation of audience response systems, which are much more affordable than typical audience response systems (nothing to rent!) and are extremely customizable.
  2. Stage an Open Space: free or nearly free, self directed, scalable, AND you’ll generate an enormous amount of useful data, input, ideas and input from any sized group

As the old saying goes: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

So, get yourself—and your attendees—on the Revolutionary Road to holding SOLUTIONS that keep everyone engaged, awake, and able to do their best work.