How to Survive Or, Thrive in Boring Meetings

 In Business Success, Leadership, Leadership Development

How many pointless and boring meetings do we have to go to? It’s insufferable and wastes so much time and money. I am tired of managers that do dull or dumb meetings, aren’t you? Dave Barry says, “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be meetings.”

The reality is dull or dumb meetings exist and will continue to do so. Some say half of the 13 billion meetings held worldwide each year are really bad. These things suck the life out of you. What can you do about this? Here are some quick thoughts:

  • Send some other poor soul.
  • Fake getting sick during a meeting.
  • Lie and say you have another meeting-people will believe that.
  • Try hiding for a few hours.
  • Don’t go to work the day of most of your meetings.

Seriously, as much as these points have potential, the inevitable happens – there will be another meeting. What can you really do? Sit idly by and become part of the problem? Or, here are two alternative and proactive considerations to be part of the solution.

Initial Steps

If you are the meeting leader, become better at facilitating meetings. For starters, see my post: The Top Ten Meeting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

I had no choice to get better at meetings, and it took practice-I am a shy person. Early in my career, I landed a corporate job in charge of the customer experience and training. My boss-the president of the company, said, “If the numbers go up you have a job. If they go down you are out of here.” After a short period of time I was involved in around 15-20 high profile meetings a week with key executives and employee groups in six different companies. Some I conducted and others I was a co-facilitator with the meeting leader. Talk about the way to potentially kill a career (or, make it). If I wanted to feed my growing family and pay my bills, I had to learn to deliver effective and lively meetings that achieved real results. (Note: I survived and thrived for ten years and then started my own consulting business-great experience.)

Next Steps

As a meeting participant-be bold-consider these kinds of activities to help liven things up, and just maybe help the team accomplish something of value.

Before the meeting: Volunteer to help with designing an agenda that is sent out ahead of time, organize the meeting room so it is more conducive to discussion, offer to be a time keeper or co-facilitator to keep the meeting on track, talk to the leader to see if you really need a meeting, suggest some small group activities to help with the meeting process, or plan a presentation on a key topic for the meeting.

During the meeting: Consider these low key group dynamic techniques: share a question about the current meeting content, make a comment on a topic and face another person and ask, “what do you think?” (you can set this up in advance), suggest a break part way through and ask the organizer to do a round robin on the topic when the meeting starts again, recommend breaking the team into two smaller groups to brainstorm on a key topic, or contribute a clean but funny joke at the beginning or end of the meetings you attend so at least everyone has a laugh.

After the meeting: Meet with the organizer and coach the person on improving the meeting, ask the organizer if you can take a greater role in meeting facilitation-have a plan, recommend the leader send a follow-up email thanking people for their help and reminding them of key points discussed, ask if you can interview participants and coach or train them on how to help in the meeting, or find a “expert” within or without your company to come to the next meeting and share ideas.

With some learning, creativity and spunk you can have a positive impact on the meetings you attend, instead of just surviving. You can start making a positive difference. In addition, you may potentially accelerate your career. While there is risk in doing the kinds of activities suggested, the bigger risk is doing nothing and blending in with the failure. Hopefully, you will avoid the phenomena that columnist Johan Goldberg describes, “I think there needs to be a meeting to set an agenda for more meetings about meetings.” What do you do to survive dull or dumb meetings?

By the way, do you want to learn how to increase employee engagement and inspire your team? Check out our complimentary eBook: How to Motivate-No-Inspire People.

Are you going through many changes at work? Download this complimentary eBook: Changing Change Management .


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