How to Make Your Next Meeting FAIL

~shared by J. Ranner

“A meeting is an event in which minutes are kept, and the hours are lost.” – Anonymous

I will be the first to admit it, for in my old age I find myself being “that guy” that has no shame in stating the obvious: I don’t like big meetings. In fact, I’ll take it a step further and say that I absolutely despise meetings. Yet, I wasn’t born an independently wealthy prince (though one from Zimbabwe keeps emailing me saying I am heir to his fortune) so like the rest of the bourgeoisie, I need to work and meetings just happen to be a part of my work. Maybe in my next life I’ll be luckier.

There’s something about being in a crowd of dozens, if not HUNDREDS of your coworkers that doesn’t resonate with me. It seems we spend a lot of TIME (which absolutely nobody has a surplus of) to go a short distance, if that. As an undiagnosed sufferer of ADD, anything that doesn’t involve mental or physical stimulation just doesn’t do it for me. I get jittery at first, which after tiring myself out from tapping my toes leads to me daydreaming and really not absorbing what is being said. I will take as many “bathroom” breaks as possible and will be the first out the door upon conclusion.

I’m not a horrible employee- I just don’t like meetings. And I’m part of a much larger problem that companies all face- ensuring that valuable meeting time and dollars are not spent in vain.

But all of the blame cannot be placed solely upon my shoulders. It is my belief that meetings do NOT have to be painful to employees- rather, they can be mentally stimulating, captivating, helpful and best of all, FUN.

But before we get there, we should probably focus on what we SHOULD avoid in the process. Therefore, in conjunction with the wonderful wizards at Woodloch Meetings, we’ve compiled a list of surefire ways to make your next business meeting FAIL.

  1. Have absolutely no purpose. It seems like this is an impossible mistake, but so many organizations set meeting dates, locations and times and don’t really put together a concrete purpose for doing so. Nothing loses the masses like meeting simply for the sake of meeting. Planners should know ahead of time what they want to accomplish and work their plans to set those goals into motion.
  2. Lack a proper agenda. So we’ve got our goal…now what? Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the modern meeting planner is figuring out how to budget what time they’ll be given for their retreat- and sometimes it might not be enough. Using your purpose, prioritize what you’d like to achieve and then do your best to stick to that time budget!
  3. Too many sub-meetings. While quick breakout sessions are certainly useful, remember the vision set forth in your meeting’s purpose. Constantly breaking out into subcommittees not only divides the team mentality up but also starts to strangle the clock. Use breakout groups wisely!
  4. Bore your employees to death. This is where I’m usually lost. If things aren’t engaging, I’m off to the theme park in my mind. Keep materials moving while they’re being presented, and encourage participation when it’s appropriate. This might take a little bit of showsmanship but it’s worth it.
  5. Don’t provide necessary breaks. Yeah yeah, I know, I said sticking to an agenda is critical, but there comes a point where a human just can’t sit any longer. So breaks are good. Serve some food, have a drink, play some games (that’s where WE come in) or just give your employees some free time. Don’t forsake their attention in an effort to cram.
  6. Lack any inspiration. What do Tony Robbins, William Wallace and Coach Gordon Bombay all have in common? They all knew how to INSPIRE their audiences. They lit a fire under their followers’ butts and got pushed them to get the job DONE. You have a microphone and a room full of people that are chomping at the bit to get pumped- don’t squander your opportunity!
  7. Provide absolutely no follow-up. So, meeting adjourned! Your employees have left with a burning heart of passion to improve your business- but your job isn’t done yet. One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is providing little to know follow up after your meeting closes. Stay on objective, meet with your employee and make the effort to keep the fire alive in the days and weeks that follow your retreat.

So I hope I did you a solid. Meetings aren’t all resigned to failure, but they will if you aren’t careful. Don’t fall into the same pitfalls as so many have before you- take the effort to make sure that your investment pays off dividends in the ways that you hope. Time is money!