Wednesday, February 9, 2011

9 Ways to Make Your Meeting the WORST Ever!

Meetings and conventions don’t all have to be engaging, informative, or well-structured. They can be just as dull, lifeless, and disorganized as the bean counters who say they need to be that way in order to have value.

Just when you think a meeting can’t possibly get any worse…it suddenly can. And YOU can do it! Here’s how.

1. Information overload

Everyone loves content! And the more the better, right? In fact, 437% of meeting attendees have between .007 and .009 nanoseconds of space in their attention span that’s not being used at any given moment. So make sure you cram that gap with as much content as possible. After all, a meeting is an opportunity to data-dump volumes of information so that everyone is on the same page. Not that anyone could tell you what that page is.

But seriously: Take into account that people need time to process information. Meeting attendees can only take in so much before their eyes begin to glaze over and their brains turn to Teflon.

2. Have a speaker DURING a meal

Who wants to talk, socialize, network, or get to know each other during a meal? Answer: everybody! That’s why you should disappoint them by having someone talk at them while they are eating. It’s not as if they’ll pretend it’s the television or music playing in the background anyway.

But seriously: One of the most important aspects of a meeting is networking with colleagues. Meals are one of the key moments for this interaction to occur. And if nothing else, your attendees need some time to decompress during the day…if they can’t do it during the chicken and rice pilaf, when can they?

3. Shorten break times

Yeah, if there are any. If you offer a break longer than 5 minutes during a meeting, you never know, people might try to make a break for it and run to their car or their hotel room to get out of there. Minimizing break times is a great way to prevent this. Or better yet, just get rid of them altogether.

But seriously: Build in plenty of breaks throughout the day. Your attendees will learn more and your speakers will have a more attentive audience.

4. Less levity, more lectern
To make sure that there is enough seriousness at a meeting, use speakers who are unpaid, industry speakers. Don’t hire anyone who is a professional, who engages the audience, or uses (shall we even dare to utter the word?) humor! There is no room for levity, interaction, or a small measure of human touch during a serious meeting. Leave humor at the door and amp up what goes on behind the lectern.

But seriously: One of the best ways to engage your attendees and open their minds to any agenda is through humor. This doesn’t mean the entire meeting needs to be all yuk yuks, but using humor appropriately allows attendees to release tension and build a positive community experience. For example, having a humorous speaker after lunch will re-energize your group and get them primed for the afternoon of learning.

5. Have more chairs than people
Let’s talk about how to effectively set the room for a meeting. In order to allow people to stretch out, since they will likely be sleeping for a large portion of this meeting, be sure to have 2-3 times the number of chairs as there are humans. This way, meeting attendees can isolate themselves effectively, surround themselves with plenty of space, and have that constant “staring down” facial expression as they are texting.

But seriously: A good rule of thumb is to allow for a maximum of 10% more chairs than attendees. If you have a group of 250 people, but seating for 400, the energy in the room will be squashed. When people are closer in proximity, there is a greater sense of connection and enthusiasm.

6. It’s all about the slides
Another important aspect of the room set-up is the projection screen for the mandatory charts and graphs presentation with the company logo. Best practices suggest that this screen should be smack-dab in the middle of the stage area, in order to maximize the visibility of the screen. Also be sure to have your speaker in the dark. After all, what’s on the screen is more important than the actual person doing the talking…especially if they’re in management.

But seriously: Your speaker should be more compelling than the slides. The presenter should be in the center of the stage and the screen over to the side. The stage area should be well lit (and not just by what’s on the screen!) so that the audience can connect with the energy that your speaker brings to their session. Look at the lighting in the room: is the stage area well lit? When in doubt, light your speaker.

7. Max out the booze
Now that you’ve gotten through your day, it’s time for happy hour! Since people have been in meetings since 7:30 that morning, they won’t be tired or hungry, so start the open bar immediately after the final session. The more they drink, the less cognizant they will be. But hey…nothing embarrassing is likely to happen, right?

But seriously: You’d be better off giving your attendees some time on their own after the final session to decompress from the day. Once you begin your cocktail reception, give your attendees 2-3 complimentary drink tickets for the night if you want them conscious during the after dinner program. Bonus: This will minimize the calls to HR the next day.

8. Awards all around!
And now it’s time for the evening awards banquet, also known as “giving out a bunch of rhomboid-shaped engraved pieces of crystal.” More is always better in this regard, so remember to include categories of sub-categories: “the winner of 45th place for this year’s sales milestone for someone who has worked here since June of 1957 is…”

But seriously: Strike a balance with your awards event. If you have a lot of awards to give out, have those at the “honorary mention level” stand at their tables to get a round of applause. Then have runners bring their awards to their tables to avoid the time consuming sauntering up to the platform. Save the stage for the top award winners. It makes the evening more succinct, and the top awards even more special.

9. It doesn’t matter how late it is, the speaker must go on!
After 3 hours of awards, bring on a humorous presenter to cap off the evening. People will surely still be attentive at 10:30pm with that open bar. Or if you’d like to save money, have Drew from IT who once did a local open-mic comedy night go up and roast the company. He won’t have had much to drink either (see #7).

But seriously: Having a professional humorist present during an awards banquet can help to make it success…but it has to be set up well. Either have your presenter on before the awards or, if after the awards is necessary, then wrap up the awards no later than 8:30pm so that your audience is attentive enough to enjoy the program. And remember, humor doesn’t only go at night…it can (and should) be a great way to engage your audience throughout the day.

So there you have it. Follow these simple steps and you, too, can have the worst meeting ever! You can do it! But please, don't.

Change speakers Tim and Kris O'Shea help organizations deal with change through relevant business humor. To learn more about these funny motivational speakers visit or call 303-371-2849. Copright 2011 Tim and Kris O'Shea.

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