Posts Tagged ‘meetings’

Innovate Your Meetings


Your meetings are ineffective and waste a lot of time and resources.  Decisions take way too long to get made.


Implement the Modern Meeting Standard.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, the latest best selling book on Amazon is Al Pittampalli’s, Read This Before Our Next Meeting.  And it is taking the corporate meeting culture by storm.

Al unabashedly declares that meetings are a cancer that is eating our productivity, progress, and overall morale throughout corporate America, and he is here to cure us.

His book is a manifesto on meetings where he declares what’s obviously wrong, and then presents an alternative called The Modern Meeting Standard.

This new standard of meetings is based on several principles that we know in our heart are true.  And yet, we still fall victim to decades of learned behavior.  It’ll be hard to change, so we need to help each other.

The Domino Project has put together a handful of goodies to help us in this journey to a better way.  Here they are in summary:

  1. A two part webinar with Al and Seth Godin during the next two Thursdays (Aug. 11, 18),
  2. A chance to win 100 free hard cover books, 25 posters, and a private webinar from Al just for your corporation,
  3. A way to tell the world about your Modern Meeting Standard movement,
  4. An offer for Moo business cards designed with the principles of the Modern Meeting Standard on one side.
So there you have it, a bunch of options to get you moving in the right direction.  But the most important one is to read the book first.
Here are some other ways to spice up your meetings (these were before I knew about the standard):

Show Up


You don’t know enough people, you’re not connected, you feel like you don’t know what’s going on, and you’re not contributing significantly.


Show up. 

By that I mean a couple of things.  First, it means to actually show up at meetings or events where you can connect with other people and learn what’s happening.  Meetings always get a bad rap, everyone hates them and thinks  they’re a complete waste of time.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I love meetings.

The reason is because meetings are where you have the opportunity to connect with other people, to exchange ideas, to learn things, and to get involved.  The general disdain for meetings has come from poorly run meetings where you’re not engaged and the purpose is unclear.

So as you show up for meetings, participate and get involved, you’ll be able to have more people connections, and be recognized as someone who’s active and engaged in a lot of things.  Also, the more people you know (and what departments they work in) the more helpful you’ll be to other coworkers in the future who want to know about a particular area.  You can say you know so-and-so and point them in the right direction.

The second meaning of ‘show up’ is about being actively present in all that you do.  It’s about taking initiative and making something happen.  Don’t just be an observer.  Speak your mind, participate.  Your contributions are valuable, don’t hold back.

That’s how you begin to make a name for yourself and become recognized as someone who’s well connected.

Just show up.

What does ‘showing up’ mean to you?

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 5 (diagram the conversation)


During a meeting, some people can talk and talk and talk, and easily get off subject, causing you to go down ‘bunny trails’ (as they call them) of thought that aren’t relevant to the conversation.  This wastes time and tires the minds of those forced to listen.


At the begining of a meeting where you know this is going to happen (a repeat offender) say something like, “I’d like to try a new meeting technique I learned” (from an authoritative resource of course.)  Then explain that while each person is talking, you are going to diagram their conversation on a white board. 

They don’t have to change what they’re going to say or pay much attention to it, but everyone will be able to see it.  Tell them that the purpose is to visually see the conversation so everyone can remember it better (which will happen of course, but the side benefit will be that it will affect what people say.  This is due, as you know, to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle which states that you alter the trajectory of a particle by trying to measure it, probably.)

Here’s how you do it.  If you’re familiar with mind mapping, that’s basically what I’m suggesting.

Try to capture the first subject out of their mouth in one word and circle it.  Then as they build supporting thoughts for that subject, draw lines to additional circled words underneath or around the original word.  If they begin to mention a subject that is not related, draw a long line to another space on the board and capture that subject in a word.  Then draw the supporting thoughts  of that new subject in a similar manner with closer lines and circle words.  Something like this.

Of course it’s best if they can see it while they’re talking, but if they don’t, don’t say anything.  Just quietly diagram their speech for all to see.  And yes, how you draw what they are saying is very subjective, so use dramatic imagery as needed – big circles, long lines, etc.

This will surely improve communication because after each person is done talking, you can analyze their diagram and say, “Now let me see if I understood what you said correctly.”  And repeat back the main message you captured.  Of course, the bunny trails will be glaringly obvious, but habits are hard to break, so it may take a few times before the person is aware of their speech patterns. 

Then again, maybe not.  You might just break them on the first try.

Try it.  It just might work.

(and let me know how it goes. I’ve only done it in my mind because I’m usually in virtual meetings over the telephone, but I know I’d have some real doosies.)

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 4 (rearrange room)


Not every one participates in your meetings.  People get comfortable in their favorite seats.  Your group needs a change.


Rearrange the chairs in your meeting room.  There’s probably that guy who always sits in the back so he can get away with not saying anything.  Or there are only the few who are engaged because they sit up front and close together.  Or your current seating arrangement could be just fine, but you still want to shake things up a bit to get people out of their comfort zone, to help them think differently, or to be open to new perspectives and ways of doing things.

Many sources will say that the best unifying, everyone-on-equal-ground type of arrangement would be to put all the chairs in a circle facing inward.  Sure, go ahead and try that if you want to, or can.  But you don’t have to.  You can do two semi-circles, or a big square, or a triangle for that matter.  You could even do two parallel lines facing each other (if you want to start a fight), or one long single file line (choo choo!)  Experiment.  See what happens.

I know there are some rooms that aren’t completely flexible (we have a bunch with a huge, immovable board room type table in the middle. ugh.)   But you can think of something.  The least you could do is talk from the other side of the room.

Seating arrangements can really affect the dynamics of a meeting.  So use that small little freedom to affect the meeting in the way you want. (That’s grootship.)

And instead of trying to convince that guy in the back that he should move up front, just make it so he doesn’t have a choice.

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 3 (start times)


People are late for your meeting. They usually wander in 5 minutes late, using some excuse that their previous meeting ran late.


Start your meeting 5 or 10  minutes later, after the hour or usual start time.  Then actually start the meeting exactly at that time.

At school there was always some kind of travel time between classes to allow you to get to your next class on time.  Sadly, some work environments cause people to have back to back meetings scheduled by different sources with no break time in between.  You either have to leave your preceeding meeting early, or show up to the next meeting late.

Well, you can’t control everyone else’s meetings, but if you’re in charge of one you can give people at least one break during the day.  Schedule your meeting at precisely five minutes after the hour, like 10:05 am, or use some odd number like 10:07.  Make sure the time is clear in the meeting announcement and that you will start on time.

If you make this a habit – using odd times and starting on time – then you’ll be known and appreciated for giving people some breathing room between their meetings, and they’ll start showing up on time if they don’t want to miss anything.  (And make the beginning of the meeting really good so they won’t want to miss it.)

If people like it, the practice might just spread.

(When we implemented this in a whole organization, it changed the culture of how they interacted with each other.)

Do you have any meeting tips?  (I know it’s a topic with lots of room for improvement.)

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 2 (The Talking Stick)


Your meetings are dominated by a few people who talk a lot, and there’s not a lot of listening going on.


Use an ancient Native American tradition called “the talking stick.”

How it works is that you have some kind of decorative stick (or it could be a ball, bean bag, or bobblehead, doesn’t matter, just some kind of ‘thing’) and whoever is holding the stick has the floor to talk.  No one else can talk, they just have to listen.  When the person with the stick is done talking, they offer it up to the group and whoever wants to talk next will take the stick.  A person can keep it as long as they want, but they can’t abuse the power, if they are stingey with it and talk for too long, people are going to stop listening to them.

This helps your meeting be more controlled, relaxed, and eliminates people talking over each other and not listening.  After using the stick a few times, people will begin to pick up the habit, and they’ll start listening to each other more, even without the stick.

Is this something that might work for you?  Do you have one of those meetings in mind where you could really use something like this?

Just try it.

Mix Up Your Meetings – part 1 (Darkness)


Your meetings are boring, painful, and woefully dreaded.


Create excited anticipation for the meetings you organize by mixing them up with a creative twist.  Do something completely unexpected and off-the-wall so that they are fun and memorable, or at least eagerly anticipated because people don’t know what you’re going to pull next.

Since I could probably start a whole separate blog on unique meeting ideas, I’m not going to burn them all in one post, so I’ll just share one at a time as part of a ‘Mix Up Your Meeting’ series.  Plus, I know you’ve done some crazy things too, so share them with me and you can write your own ‘MUY Meeting’ post.

Here’s my first idea (and they are in no particular order.)

Start your meeting in the dark.

This only works in a room with no windows that you can get dark enough to be uncomfortable.  Be aware of safety issues, help them get to their seat without tripping, or wait until everyone is seated before turning out the lights.

The idea is to turn off one of the senses so they can focus on something else.  Let them just listen to your voice for a little while so they can really pay attention to what you are saying.  Or use an analogy for darkness that relates to whatever you’re meeting about.  Maybe you’re ‘in the dark’ regarding a particular problem you’re facing and you need everyone’s participation to help ‘shed some light’ on the subject.

After a while you could start showing images or words on the screen using a standard projector, or you could gradually turn on the lights as you are more ‘enlightened’ by the group discussion.

Or you could keep the whole meeting in the dark. I don’t care. Use your creativity.  The point is to use the contrast of darkness and light to bring home a point or to provide a sensory experience that is unique in the workplace (and maybe for good reason, so don’t stay too long in the dark or make it a habit, you don’t want any danger or funny business going on.)

What do you think?  Are you bold enough to try it?

You’ll be remarkable. 

People will remark about you and your meeting for sure.