Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Worst Kind of Meeting

By JanDix on Pixabay
Individuals in corporate settings spend somewhere between 25 and 80% of their time in meetings. As one of those individuals, I can say that there are several differentiating factors between highly productive meetings and those meetings that are a complete waste of time, but I will save many of those observations for a future post.

This post is about what I consider to be the worst type of meeting that I have ever attended. I call it "The Public Reading."

If you've ever attended an actual public reading, it is generally an event made up of several fans of an author who are eager to hear an excerpt of the author's newest work before buying a copy and asking for an autograph.

In a business meeting, few people are looking for your autograph. So it is unlikely that anyone is interested in listening to you read an excerpt (or worse, the entirety) of your latest document or Powerpoint deck.

This type of meeting starts innocently enough, in my opinion. Someone has worked on content and has been asked to present that content to a larger group. Then, often through no fault of their own, they either get flustered or worried about their presentation skills and end up reading the document or presentation verbatim to a large crowd.

What's the problem with this approach? It's simple. You don't need a meeting to do this. If you are reading a document to people, the chances are that the audience could have read it all on their own. In that instance, they could take the appropriate time out of their day, rather than the time scheduled for the meeting, to read through the document and utilized the meeting time for more productive activities.

So how do you avoid the "Public Reading?" First and foremost, send out documents ahead of time. Encourage attendees to read the documents ahead of time and bring questions. Then avoid going through the document directly during the meeting.

If you get stuck in a situation where no one has proactively read the materials and you feel almost compelled to read it, try to avoid it. Summarize. Add more content not written on the page. And if everything is on the page? Perhaps you should revisit your document to reduce the content to allow for more talking room around the words. Bottom line, if you are presenting material to an audience, your presentation needs to have merit above and beyond the words digitally documented in a file. And to make it more productive, the meeting needs an objective beyond just listening to your words. So, what other tips do you have to getting past the "Public Reading?"