Bringing the Wow to Boring Meetings
We all know the scene: the simultaneous dings of calendar reminders, the barely concealed sighs and clicks of quickly saved work states, the shuffling as the teams drag themselves into default meeting time position….If this seems too familiar, you’ve probably got a problem. Boring meetings are the quickest way to suck morale and productivity out of your team. Someone (possibly you) spent a lot of money to gather all of those heads in one room, and you want to make sure that you are getting the maximum value out of your investment.
In case you aren’t convinced, research from Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics has shown that executives spend at least a third of their working week – upwards of 18 hours – in meetings. 11 million business meetings are conducted per day in the US and software company Atlassian estimates the cost in lost salary hours at $37 billion per year. To compound that financial cost, a 2012 survey demonstrated that employees feel more than half of the time spent in meetings is wasted. From a business perspective it’s only logical to work to get people engaged and turn those frowns upside down.
Where to start?
Before we try to change something, it’s helpful to establish a baseline definition. So, what makes something boring? According to question and answer site Quora (aka, the seat of all human knowledge) someone or something is boring when they can never tell you anything you don’t know, don’t have experience or perspective that is relevant to you, or they are too self-focused to engage in a valuable exchange of ideas.
Bringing the Wow
In theory, if we address even one of these points we’ve already made the meeting time more valuable to our team. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Don’t have meetings.
Meetings are only as good as they are useful. If there is a point that can be easily addressed in an email or even during a coffee break, then do that. Although it may be hard to break the meeting habit, swapping out some of the formal sessions for more frequent, informal chats can help keep teams moving in the right direction.
2. Have a clear goal and agenda.
Meetings occur because they are the easiest way to get teams on the same page and to work on the right tasks. Ensuring those meeting goals are clearly defined before the first invite is sent out will help make sure that you have the right people in the room and that they know what to prepare for and what to expect.
3. Make sure the meeting is a conversation.
According to Quora, someone is boring when they can’t engage in dialogue. If you find that most of your meetings turn into lectures, speak up. Keeping a conversation fluid and relevant to all the attendees will help make sure everyone is engaged and the discussion productive.
4. Bring food.
I’ve met very few people who aren’t immediately excited by the prospect of pizza or donuts. If all else fails, offer an incentive to break up the monotony. Meetings can be an efficient way to get a group of busy people together long enough to exchange information and make decisions – sometimes you may need to throw in a little extra to bring people in.
Just Do It
Working to counter the banality of your professional meetings will help keep employees engaged, keep business processes moving, and help mitigate the silos that seem to form in many organizations. Taking a few steps to keep your meetings on the right side of interesting will benefit you and your team in the long run.