We’ve all sat through a meaningless meeting or event; it can be almost painful.
After recently enduring a boring meeting, I Googled "boring meetings" in various ways and was amazed at the results. Countless sources were detailing how to survive sitting through a boring meeting with suggestions ranging from “writing poetry” and “doodling” to “honing your bucket list” and “daydreaming of your next job.”
Imagine you’re the person or team responsible for a meeting that drives participants to write poetry rather than engaging in what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re that person or know the team running said boring meeting, this column is for you.
Sadly, too many people suffer from what our team calls “WT-F Meetings.” No, not Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Very funny! And, contrary to what you’re thinking, it’s a "rated G" term. WT-F stands for “Wasted Time-Feeling.” Who likes feeling their time is being wasted? Conversely, who enjoys feeling like they’re wasting others’ time?
No one intends on having a WT-F meeting; they just happen — a lot.
I also Googled “engaging meetings.” Most results had the word “effective” in the headline itself or within the subhead. Being "effective" can be defined in various ways, depending on your goals.
A universally agreed upon yardstick of effectiveness is successfully producing a desired outcome, specific goals notwithstanding. A successful meeting is one where the goal is tied to your company’s core values and team belief in the company’s vision.
Whether it be internal or customer-focused, how you engage when asking others for their time and attention — meetings, events, workshops, retreats, etc. — directly reflects your organization’s culture, values and vision.
From production and content to structure and engagement, you are the puppetmaster.
Think about the last five events or meetings you attended: How aligned were those experiences with the company’s values and vision? How did you feel? Motivated? Supported? How "effective" or "engaging" were they? Were the desired outcomes met?
I prefer the notion of an "engaging meeting" rather than an "effective" meeting; if the attendee is inspired and believes in the "why" behind your goals, it has a longer-lasting impact on your business. I’ve found that when people are moved, they’re more than just effective; they’re less transactional. And less transactional employees correlate strongly with more invested employees. They’re connected to something bigger than themselves: your company.
That’s when the magic happens: collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, improved morale, happier customers, repeat and referral business, people feeling valued, joy, fulfillment, profitability, and success.
To be clear, I’m not saying ONE meeting will deliver magical organizational transformation. However, one "engaging" meeting can create a ripple effect. And if the conditions are right, a ripple can become a wave.
Creating engaging meetings takes time, a luxury many don’t have enough of. To help, I’ve compiled a list of 11 meeting and event strategies that work:
- In advance, tell your attendees what you want from their participation — why they are being summoned — and what’s in it for them.
- Send confirmation reminders.
- Get support from strategic partners.
- Structure the meeting so it creates interactions and connections.
- Practice and rehearse; be prepared!
- Stay focused on your goals and always have a timekeeper to ensure you keep to the schedule.
- Check and re-check all A/V components before the meeting.
- Make it sensory; there are five senses to choose from: taste, sight, smell, hearing, and touch.
- Keep copious notes.
- Send follow-up communication.
- Measure your success.
Sounds easy, right? If so, there would be a lot fewer W-TF meetings, right? Kidding aside, the amount of time, money, and resources wasted on meetings and events is no laughing matter. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, only 17% of executives believe their meetings are productive and valuable. The meager result is largely due to poor planning and lack of preparation. In fact, 63% of meetings don't have a set agenda; 37% don't have any agenda at all.
Here's the thing: Many meetings and events are underrated and undervalued because we’ve experienced too many that were disingenuous or too transactional. When planned to captivate and inspire, meetings and events can be a company’s superpower. These valuable opportunities can create synergies, develop ingenuity, drive growth, and foster a company community of loyalists and advocates.
Whether you’re planning an in-person meeting for eight, a virtual team meeting for 25, or a company conference for 1,000, each experience reflects your organization’s culture, values, and vision. Meaningful events and meetings can turn the ordinary into extraordinary, turning that ripple into a wave of positive change.