Help! This meeting is BORING!

Meetings can be SO BORING!  I feel like a kid saying this but it’s the truth.  Boring meetings are brutal.   What is it about meetings the makes them so boring?  Is it just the way things are or can we change them?  What would it be like if your meetings were fun?

Let’s explore what makes meetings so boring and what you can do about it.

Here are 5 things I’ve noticed that turn meetings into a real snoozer:

  1. Disengagement.  I don’t know why I even care about the meeting.

  2. Lack of Drama.  There conflict and we brush past it in the interest of time.

  3. Lack Spontaneity.  When there’s no chance that something funny will happen, it sucks the life out of a meeting.

  4. Data Dumps.  A lot of information is shared, but it’s not clear what actions to take.

  5. Droners.  Someone drones on and on in a monotone.  A close cousin to the “Rambler”.

Is it the meeting owner’s job to fix these problems?  Is there anything you can do as a participant to inject a little fun?

Here are some things that have worked for me.  

  • Demand to know why you should care.
    As a meeting participant, you have a right to know why you should care.  The meeting owner has a responsibility to set the context.  But no one is perfect, if the context isn’t clear, you need to ask.

  • Provoke Conflict.
    Yes, you read that right.  Provoke conflict.  Wrestling down misalignments and disagreements is the fun part.  If you sense a conflict, call it out!  Expose the disagreement and let the team work through it.  Just to be clear, we are not talking about personal conflict, we’re talking about idea disagreement here.
    It can sound something like this:  “Wait, before we move on, I heard two different things. It sounds like Joe wants to use an off the shelf product and Mary wants to build it ourselves. Joe, Mary is that accurate?”
    For more on provoking conflict, see Patrick Lencioni’s book “Death by Meeting”.[link]

  • Try a little fun.
    A little fun can breathe life into a dull meeting and dramatically change the outcomes. Try starting with a “word of the day” and see who weaves the word into the discussion the most.  Try looking at the meeting topic through the lens of different characters. “What would Batman think about this idea?  What would The Joker think?”

  • Cut off the Droners and Data Dumpers.
    With love and respect, cut off people who are droning on or dumping data on the group. You are helping them, they want to be stopped.  Simply ask for the bottom line, or a 1 sentence summary of their point the input they want.  For a data dump in particular, ask them to send an email so you can all digest the data and discuss it at the next meeting. There is absolutely no reason to sit an listen to a recitation of information.
    For more ideas see post Dialogue Mapping in prior post “I can’t follow this meeting”

What have you tried in order to make meetings less boring, more fun?