Remember when meetings used to always be in the stuffy Board Room with the same biscuits and the same issues around hooking laptops up to the main screen? If we have achieved anything in the last 18 months it is bringing creativity to the ways in which we can now hold meetings.
But how do we make sure we get the most from our meetings? A book by David Pearl on the art of effective business meetings called ‘Will There Be Donuts?’ explores this very subject and exposes a few golden nuggets that we as regular holders / participants of meetings took quite a lot of notice of. We would highly recommend digging the book out and reading it over a doughnut or two for yourselves, but for those that don’t like doughnuts, here’s a few of the key lessons we took away from it.
1. Think about meetings the way cavemen would have done
It might sound strange, but cavemen would have held regular meetings too. It wouldn’t have been in a windowless room like many offices suffer from today, but nevertheless there would have been occasions when fellow cavemen (and women) would have gathered round the fire to come to an agreement on something important. But as the author of this book points out, life back then would have been much more simple without blackberries or apples to distract from the meeting focus. Getting to the point of who was going to slay the next meal, who was going to cook etc. would have been much more of an important meeting agenda item. Hence we should think like cavemen too, focus on precisely what your meeting is for, is it for exchanging information? Is it for selling? Is it for creating ideas? Make this the sole purpose of your meeting and cast aside all other items, only that way will you get true results from your meeting.
2. Don’t be a meeting stereotype
Even in online meetings everyone can still see you fiddling with your phone, or typing an email whilst you’re meeting with someone else. Needless to say, you should make your prime objective to be present at your meeting, whether you are hosting the meeting, leading the meeting, contributing, taking notes or whatever…. Be present! Bring something to the table other than doughnuts (although it is always nice to bring a gift) otherwise don’t attend. If you have nothing to contribute, you are simply wasting your time, time that could be spent elsewhere on something more productive, on something that matters.
3. Think outside the meeting room
In-person meetings are back on the agenda… But if you want people to be creative why would you invite people to a room with grey walls, grey carpets, no windows and fuel them with average quality coffee and biscuits?! If you want people to generate ideas, don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. Be creative with your meeting location, send them to a coffee shop, send them to a park, a museum or anywhere where the everyday stereotypes of the office environment are non-existent and just watch the ideas flow. Statistics have proven that creativity blossoms more in noisy coffee shops than most other places and artists have consistently found weird and wonderful places to generate ideas. Salvador Dali was partial to lying fully clothed in the bath – but maybe that’s not such a good one to try out at work.
4. What if the world was watching your meeting take place?
If we’re being honest, and we expect you to be too, meetings can be a boring affair. We sit and listen to people drone on about various points whilst someone sits trying to keep us on track with the meeting agenda, cutting things short and eventually calling a second meeting to address everything ‘we never got round to covering’. Consider this for a second though, what if all your key stakeholders were sat watching your meeting. All the customers that the meeting impacted on, the departments that may be affected, your loved ones who decisions may affect, all watching from glass walls like they have around squash courts these days. Then the meeting would be different, then there would be focus – there would most definitely be decisions too! A helpful tip we picked up from the book was to think about this at the start of every meeting, taking time to know who the meeting may impact on in wider terms and making sure we are not only present at the meeting, but contributing too, for the sake of others not able to be present at the meeting.
We hope these tips are useful. There are so many ways we can meet people now, make sure you mix it up and try new venues for your in-person meetings. If you need any help in changing your ways of working to become more creative just get in touch: EstherM@NineFeetTall.com