A big part of creating better meetings revolves around reading the room, especially people's body language. So what is it saying when people in a meeting slouch back into their seats in a meeting to observe someone else's PowerPoint?
It says "I'm checking out" and I hate it - I'm typically not much of a hater, but I hate meetings where people are expected to sit back and be passive observers. This is a symptom of stale corporate cultures that require the kabuki of the dreaded "deck" for any idea to break through. Send me the deck ahead of time, so we can spend the meeting talking about the implications and insights. Not interested in feedback? Just reporting? Great! Then we don't have to meet!!
|Participants in a recent |
"Think With Your Hands" workshop
demonstrate some extreme
So I constantly advocate "Lean-Forward Meetings" where participants are engaged with each other and the subject matter. When people are leaning forward, they are engaged; when they are sitting back, they may be paying attention, but they are not actively engaged. Can we at last replace the war room with the play room, and then have conversations, not presentations? *Note: there is plenty to say about the general awfulness of Powerpoint, but nothing I could add to Edward Tufte's withering screed on "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint."
My processes use graphic murals; copious amounts of post-it notes, markers and paper; lots of LEGO; but above all, generous helpings of play, visual thinking and other processes and stimuli designed to activate alternative neural pathways and uncover new insights. These create the Lean-Forward effect, which re-programs the body language and brain function -- and that inevitably sets the stage for engagement (and thereby a better meeting).
So here is your to-do list for Lean-Forward Meetings:
- Send an agenda and relevant materials ahead of time (long enough for attendees to process purpose and background)
- Think through a series of questions to engage your team in developing a solution.
- If you must present, use a 7:2:1 ratio for each ten minutes of your presentation: 7 minutes of content, 2 minutes of small-group download/discussion, 1 minute of report-out
- Are you just updating the team? Then PLEASE spare everyone a meeting and just send the update!!
- Use processes and materials that invite people to lean forward and engage with each other and the topic: have the team work at murals and whiteboards, write on post-it notes with sharpies, play with hand-brain triggers like LEGO, and do anything to get people moving around.
Some of these are just common-sense "good meeting" tips - you can find lots more from Bill Jensen's Simplicity Survival Handbook.
What do you use to get meeting attendees to lean forward? I would love to hear about it! Please ping me at the coordinates at the top of the page.