The perfect meeting
Meetings are an activity that mankind has invented as a way of directly translating Einstein’s Theory of Relativity into practical benefits for any manager, at any company. Time being relative, the primary benefit of meetings is to help managers survive long working days while occasionally attempting to resolve issues. But the latter is absolutely not a requirement. If you want to attain perfection in running your meetings, just observe the following 7 rules.
1. When to hold a meeting?
Well, this is a dumb question. Look at your agenda for the next few weeks. If you find some empty spaces, just fill them in with meeting requests.
Use your creativity to invent topics that are irrelevant enough to be sure you don’t need to invest too much energy in preparing them. It’s a joy to do and a good exercise in creativity, no thinking outside of the box this time, but thinking outside of your agenda.
Your agenda is already fully booked? Lucky you, just remember that the majority of the scheduled meetings will create quality time in your busy weeks during which to work on your exploding mailbox and answer written messages from other managers on your mobile phone. You can already feel your stress disappearing at this positive prospect.
2. Whom to invite?
The rule of thumb is: if you do not want to arrive at any decisions at the end of the meeting, invite as many people as you can fit around a table. You know that the majority of the attendees will not really participate, because they need to check their mails and messages. So, why bother worrying about whom to invite? A large number of attendees creates a win-win situation for all.
Note that if you really need to move forward on a project, you might consider talking to a few people face to face instead of scheduling another collective meeting. But this may be too efficient or disturbing because it works.
3. Organizing the meeting, where to start?
The first and most critical success factor is comfort. Go for large tables where everybody can easily install their laptop and mobile phone with enough space for their water bottles, some papers, a mouse for the elderly, the numerous cables needed to keep the laptops and phones alive and of course the many types of connectors for the beamer or TV set.
Don’t forget, we are 21st century managers. You cannot have too many power sockets. They are the lifelines for very busy people who never stop twiddling with their hardware in order to keep up with the many conversations that shape the daily life of a company. Plus, this way, you’ll also avoid people unplugging YOUR AC power.
For meetings at around 11 a.m. you should also provide enough table space for the occasional banana, apple, orange or light yoghurt including knife, spoon and the plastic bag for the peels. And at around 2 p.m. it is wise to provide space for the greasy sandwich that some participants will try to eat now, in your meeting, because they just came from a lunchtime meeting that lasted longer than planned.
Some companies these days are conducting ‘topless meetings’, where a huge tray collects all the laptops before the meeting. Be aware that many people cannot handle being away from electronics for more than 10 minutes. Compare that to a pet. So, in order to avoid pre-traumatic stress or late-stage depression, plan a lot of breaks. Such measures can only increase your reputation as an effective manager.
4. What is the most appropriate length for a meeting?
Well, contrary to what many managers think, the number of slides is not a good indicator of time. You know beforehand that you’re not going to have the time to go through all the slides anyway, whatever the length of the meeting.
Research shows that on average meetings – or 99% of all meetings – people do not really listen anymore after 5 to 10 minutes. So, as you can see, the length of your meeting doesn’t really matter. As long as everybody enjoys the time using their computer or mobile phone, you are safe.
By the way, keep in mind that in many companies, meetings never start on time and never finish on time either. So, do not panic if you see people arriving late and leaving early in your meeting. It is not that they are not interested or have a train or plane to catch, no, they just are trying to keep up with their agenda, this is business as usual.
5. And the slides?
Well, in our slide economy, common practice becomes a rule of law. Two principles have remained valid for the past three decades. The first principle is that the more slides you show, the more intelligent you will look. The second principle is that the more complex the slides are, the more you will be able to show that your audience is not intelligent. You get it? Number and complexity of slides are proportionally related to perceived IQ.
To achieve complexity in slides, please make sure to allow as little white space on each slide as possible. You can fill the empty space with words, or even better, long sentences. Or you can fill them with figures, graphs, pictures, emojis, clip-art or cartoons. As long as each slide resembles a Picasso or the mathematical formulation of the ignition mechanism of an atomic bomb, you are sure to impress your audience.
By the way, when you present the slides – because that’s what managers do instead of presenting their bright ideas – do not forget to read all the long sentences or go through all the figures and graphs of each slide, preferably with your back turned to the audience. They will appreciate that your body language is telling them they can safely continue to work on their mails because they are not involved in your discussion.
6. Body language makes the difference?
Since you’ve already screwed up your presentation from the very beginning by reading the slides and turning your back to the audience, your nonverbal communication will not make any difference at all in the outcome of the meeting.
Nonverbal communication is about eye contact, voice intonation, using your hands and your body to convince the audience. It counts for 50% of your convincing power.
Eye contact? What for?
You’re right. Don’t look into people’s eyes when talking to them or asking a question. You’ll not only disturb them, you’ll also force them to give a sensible and intelligent answer to a question they do not really care about.
And the hands? Just leave them in your two pockets. Yes we know, you will not look really convinced of what you say or seem committed but you’ll avoid the trouble of finding the best way of using them.
The same applies to your voice. A monotonous voice, without intonation, gives a reassuring feeling to your audience, comparable to lounge music. It is the signal that boredom is a safe haven for mooring one's boat at several points throughout the day.
7. Closing the meeting? Go for a happy landing!
Of course, you can always stop the meeting by stopping talking.
But the best way is to very quickly go through the 15 slides you didn’t have a chance to show, telling your audience that you will come back to them during the next meeting. That’s reassuring for everybody. No to do’s, no fuss. We call that a happy landing.
Your time is up and you are still alive. Now, just go to the next meeting where YOU will be able to relax, working on your hundred mails and messages. Life’s good!
Our statistics show that managers spend on average 60% of their time in meetings and that they find 40% of the meetings they attend, are pretty useless. This means they lose on average 1 day of precious time a week. This is 1 week a month or 2.5 months a year.
We have developed a technique that increases management’s persuasion power, improve the quality of the decision making and help managers to get that precious time back.
The outcome? More leadership with less energy drains and a more enjoyable professional life.
By the way. What would YOU do with an additional 2.5 months of professional free time? Think about it and send us your suggestions!