More Boring Meetings & Presentations
Change your meetings, change your company
Iʼve always said that communications can change the world and create clarity from
I use to think that videos and inspirational talks were the secret to this change.
I now believe that the everyday meeting may be the most important communications
vehicle of change, collaboration and empowerment.
Alas, most business meetings and organizational presentations lead to human suffering.
They go too long. They have no clear purpose. People donʼt disagree or ask questions.
Managers mistakenly want agreement instead of healthy dissent. People read
PowerPoint presentations to a group, instead of asking people to read background
ahead of time so the time together can be used to discuss, debate and decide.
Companies have guidelines for everything from safety procedures and privacy to
vacation policies and social media. So why not how to run good meetings?
Something to think about.
I often facilitate strategic sessions for executive teams and teach people in companies
how to run more productive, collaborative, meaty meetings. This 10-page workbook
includes highlights from my workshops.
One recent participant wrote and said, “Maybe corporate communications can start a
groundswell in favor of fewer more value driven meetings and presentations by asking
“whatʼs at stake” prior to setting up meetings. Before long we could be the “change we
wish to see” at our corporation.
What kind of change could you start by transforming “meetings as usual”?
Two essentials for productive, interesting meetings
1. Whatʼs at stake?
Participants need to be jolted a little during the first ten meetings of a meeting so
that they understand and appreciate whatʼs at stake.
This might call for the leader to illustrate the dangers of making a bad decision, or
highlight a competitive threat that is looming. It can also be accomplished by
appealing to participants; commitment to the larger mission of the organization,
and its impact on clients, employees, or society at large.
Employees are looking for a reason to care. And thatʼs what the leader of a
meeting should be giving them.
2. Resolve issues that matter
When a group of intelligent people come together to talk about issues that matter
it is both natural and productive for disagreement to occur. Resolving those
issues is what makes a meeting productive, engaging, even fun.
Avoiding the issues that merit debate and disagreement not only makes the
meeting boring; it guarantees that the issues wonʼt be resolved. And this is a
recipe for frustration. That frustration often manifests itself later in the form of
unproductive personal conflict, or politics,
And so a leader of a meeting must make it a priority to seek out and uncover any
important issues about which team members do not agree. And when team
members donʼt want to engage in those discussions, the leader must force them
to do so. Even when it makes him or her temporarily unpopular.
The only thing more painful than confronting an uncomfortable topic is pretending
it doesnʼt exist. I believe far more suffering is caused by failing to deal with an
issue directly – and whispering abut it in the hallways – than by putting it on the
table and wrestling with it head on.
Source: Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
When meetings get stuck (or hijacked): whatʼs the real issue?
An executive in a recent workshop kept hijacking the conversation by saying,
“We just donʼt have the resources to do that.” Over and over. Which kept stalling
the strategy session.
Hereʼs how I got the group unstuck. It might be helpful to you when someone
uses the common “Yes, but we donʼt have the money/people/time” refrain about
new approaches or ideas.
“You all are stretched to the limit,” I said. “And letʼs remember that we find
resources for priorities that are important to us. Things that arenʼt so important
donʼt get funded.
“Maybe the real conversation here is that this program just isnʼt that important
to the company right now. Maybe you should together decide itʼs not important,
and stop frustrating yourselves by bringing it up at every strategy session.”
Radio silence. (And one executive quietly laughing in acknowledgement.)
The group decided that the issue was important and they figured out a way to get
a basic approach working within the next few weeks. Itʼs not the Cadillac or Four
Seasons version, but it begins to provide value and address a real need in the
When someone throws objections, get to the real issue and get out of the
endlessly frustrating and unproductive ”why not” objections.
Source: Lois Kelly, Foghound.com/blog
The Four Meetings
Meeting Time Purpose & Format Keys to Success
Daily 10 minutes Share daily schedules, • Donʼt sit down
check-in activities • Keep it administrative
Weekly 45 - 60 Review weekly activities • Donʼt set agenda until after
tactical minutes and metrics, and resolve initial reporting
tactical obstacles, issues • Postpone strategic
Monthly 2 - 4 hours Discuss, analyze, • Limit to one to two topics
strategic brainstorm and decide on • Prepare, do research
critical issues affecting long- • Engage in good conflict
Off-site 1 - 2 days Review strategy, industry • Get out of office
trends, competitive • Focus on work, limit social
landscape, key personnel, activities
team development • Donʼt over structure or
overburden the schedule
Source: The Table Group
Leading a meeting that matters
Agree on the purpose Where do we want to focus our attention and why is this
important to do in a meeting?
Name a clear focus What do we need to accomplish by the end of the
Create good questions What questions will get people focused on the purpose,
open up healthy dialog?
Figure out who Who are the right people to be involved? How should they
prepare? What should they expect to contribute?
Communicate Meeting Purpose, focus, what people should prepare,
Leading a meeting
Begin well • Context: whatʼs at stake? Why is it so relevant to our
• Check in, warm-up: invite everyone to speak to a quiet
question to set tone
Focus and involve Allow for conversation; notice behaviors and ask people
to share views; focused on purpose; interject good
questions to clarify, shift, wrap; introduce new topics
End well • What hasnʼt been said that needs to be said?
• Check-out: each person says what he or she has
learned, heard, appreciated or committed to doing
• Agreements: whoʼs accountable to do what by when
Resolving a common dilemma about meetings
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
and if I stay it will be double
so come on and let me know
Song by The Clash, English punk rock band, 1981
1. How much value will I get from this meeting? (Your ROI)
2. How much value can I contribute to this meeting?
(Increasing the ROI for your team, company or customer)
Sample Evaluation Card
How effective was our meeting?
1= awful, 5 = superb
1. I saw a clear connection between the meeting
goal and something important to me and my 1 2 3 4 5
2. I had the right information ahead of time to be
able to contribute to the meeting. 1 2 3 4 5
3. The conversation stayed focused on our goal
and moved us toward it. 1 2 3 4 5
4. I believe that the people at the meeting spoke
freely and openly. 1 2 3 4 5
5. The meeting leader spoke frankly and directly
to the topic and genuinely encouraged others to 1 2 3 4 5
do the same.
6. I am leaving with a clear understanding of what 1 2 3 4 5
I need to do next to support our goal.
The biggest presentation “oops”
What do you want people to understand/do/believe after theyʼve
heard your presentation?
Whatʼs the destination? Does your presentation move them from
where they are to where you want them to get to?
Does your presentation lead them to the destination?
Three parts of presentations that move people to destination
What is What could be
2. Middle: contrast what is, what could be to hold attention,
encourage full engagement. Make status quo unappealing.
What is What could be
Roadblocks Clear passage
3. End: Call to action AND how the (the company, customers, the department,
the world) will be much better because of the change to WHAT
Source: Nancy Duarte
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