Interesting meetings and boring meetings. I lived through it all. Have you?
Three Mountains Learning Advisors is all about learning. I’ve learnt a lot over the years, mostly from experience. At meetings, I watch what happens and adopt good practices from others. I also learn from unpleasant experiences, like boring meetings. I watch them carefully and made a list of ways to create a boring meeting environment. Here they are:
- Start late. Announce that your meeting will start at 8.00. Then wait for all officials to come and start your meeting at 9.30. All participants who arrived at the given time feel exhausted by the time you actually begin. Only the people who arrive after 9.30 feel pleased with themselves. Next time, they may even try arriving at 10.00.
- Hire a poor sound system. One of the best ways to prevent your participants from engaging in your meeting is a sound system that squeaks, beeps, is too loud or too soft. You will see people sink in their chairs, stare at the ceiling, fiddle with their mobile phones or simply walk out on your meeting.
- Do not introduce your presenters. Just have people stand up and talk without clear introductions or an explanation of the agenda and how they fit in. Without a purpose for listening, participants often switch off and start texting others.
- Ask presenters to use as many abbreviations as possible without explaining them to the audience. You will see participants reaching for their computers. To search for the meaning of these abbreviations? Or to check their Facebook newsfeed?
- Have presenters read word-for-word off a PowerPoint presentation, with their backs facing the audience. This will enable the audience to study the back of their suit or dress. They will also have time to judge if the shoes match the outfit and if their hairstyles are up to date.
- Open a discussion through a list of questions to the presenter. Allow one person to take 5 minutes to ask a question, and take at least 3 questions on the list. This is a true memory test for the presenter who is asked to respond to the questions. Most presenters fail. Any active debate is effectively prevented.
- Do not keep time. You must fill up time to the free lunch you’ve arranged anyhow. People who want to eat for free should wait till 14:30 to have lunch.
- Send minutes from the meeting at least three months after. Do not put any action points or people in charge of following up. They may have changed jobs within the last three months so action points are not valid.
These are all good recipes for making a meeting a boring experience.
Which of the points above works best to bore you? My favourites are 2, the terrible sound system that hurts my ears; and 7, not keeping time or not having any facilitation at all. A good facilitator is a relief and a blessing.
Remember, a meeting isn’t boring unless the people organising it make it so. It is up to you and me to make it better. Would you like to meet? Shall we see if we can make it interesting?
Gerry van der Hulst