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True fact: 95% of all meetings are completely pointless. Just take a look around during your typical meeting. Observe how many sets of glazed eyes are staring off at the screen counting the seconds until they can escape this temporary prison. It’s bad enough to be there, enduring the bullshit, it’s worse to be the one up front slinging the bullshit.
When you’re hosting a meeting, you’re coming at it from one of two perspectives. Option one, you’re one of those gung-ho company people who really think that everyone cares about how quarterly earnings were up from Q1. If you are one of those people, feel free to skip over this article. You may want to get people to pay attention to you when you’re up front talking, but honestly, you’re beyond help. No matter how much you dress up your meeting, no one wants to be at one if it’s being run by a total try-hard.
On the other hand, you could just be hosting the meeting out of pure obligation. Your only goal is to make it through without having a panic attack, vomiting, or accidentally swearing in front of the higher ups. If you have the ability to influence the settings of the meeting, though, and it’s actually imperative that people leave the meeting not feeling like an hour plus of their time was wasted, here are some tips to make your stupid meeting somewhat bearable.
1. Time it right
First thing’s first, make sure you’re scheduling your meeting at a time when no one will resent you. That means, no Friday afternoons or Monday mornings for sure. Your best bet is a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning, around 10 or 11 a.m. If not, early afternoon at 2 or 3 p.m. works best.
2. Bring an Incentive
Look, no one could give a rats ass what you’re going to be talking about unless they’re one of the aforementioned office try-hards. If you want to boost attendance, you need to give the people a reason to show up beyond the sweet, sweet profit projections you’re going to be throwing at them (I just fell asleep typing that).
The most obvious incentive is, of course, food. If it’s a morning meeting coffee, bagels, donuts, or the like is the go to. In the afternoon it’s a bit trickier because unless you’re actually having a lunch meeting, there is no appropriate afternoon snack. Fruit and veggie platters might be a healthy option but not very appetizing, and something like chips is not really a substantial shared snack. Some form of dessert may be the best option, but that’s going to turn off the health nuts. The best case scenario is your office is super chill and lets you bring booze.
3. No Frills
Remember how everyone in The Office was always so engaged with Michael during his conference room meetings? Everyone in that room was engaged not by the content of the meeting, but the character of Michael. If not for the perpetual, edge-of-your-seat tension of what that idiot might do next, they would have all taken a page from Stanley’s playbook and kept their heads in their Sudokus.
So there may be an argument that this entertainment was the only thing keeping people awake in the room, but it also causes a perception of unprofessionalism and that your meetings aren’t to be taken seriously. Therefore, people will tune out as soon as you start talking, because they figure they’re just missing bullshit and not anything that’s actually relevant to their job. So please no funny skits, no trivia round, no celebrity impressions. Stick to the material at hand.
4. Present Blitzkrieg Style
Along those same lines as above, the best way to hold a meeting is to power through. Keep your time short, sweet, and to the point. Don’t read things off the powerpoint you’re displaying, just make a note that you’ll send out a copy after the meeting and give a one-sentence summation. If you must do a Q&A, do just one at the end (don’t be that fucking guy who asks for questions after each powerpoint slide). Or, better yet, spare your coworkers having to hear a discussion of that one minor point they really couldn’t care less about due to that one gunner’s question. Answer in an e-mail, or just let everyone know you’re free to respond to questions after via e-mail. The point is this, don’t turn a 25-minute presentation into a 45-minute meeting. Turn a 25-minute presentation into a 15-minute meeting and people will groan a lot less knowing their time won’t be wasted.
5. No Socratic Method
Just the mention of the term “Socratic Method” probably caused every lawyer and law student’s sphincters to tighten up. For the uninitiated, the Socratic Method is the term used for professors in law school who will cold call on anyone in class to answer their questions. Most often, they’ll use it as a sort of check on people drifting off, coercing them into remaining conscious due to the fear of looking like an asshole in front of everyone else.
Believe it or not, I have seen people in meetings do this. They’ll ask specific people if they have a thought on something from the presentation, knowing full well that guy was playing solitaire on his computer for the last five minutes. Don’t be this guy. Don’t be the guy who asks for everyone to put their laptops away to “devote their full attention to this.” I don’t care if you’re presenting on the office’s safety plan in case of fire. If not burning to death isn’t enough incentive for him to pay attention, either you are god awful as a speaker or he was always meant to die in an office fire. Don’t interfere with destiny.
6. Lean into the Boredom
Nothing, nothing causes your co-workers more anxiety and kills their enthusiasm more than when the guy leading the meeting is just busting with enthusiasm of his own. It’s admirable if you have a passion for a meeting about your pet project, but please understand that 95% of the people in this room do not share that passion. In fact, 50-75% couldn’t give a shit, they just want to be out of there as much as possible.
When you get up in front of the room, acknowledge that this stuff is boring. Joke about how you just want to get through this stuff and get back to watching more Youtube videos. If people don’t seem that into it, don’t make a fuss, just let them be. Focus on the people who actually seem like they give a shit and want to be there. For everyone else, get them out on time and unscathed. That’s the best you can do..