In so many activities – atmosphere is everything. It can either make people comfortable and inspire participation or turn them off so that they just want to leave. And the last thing you want is for people to want to leave your meeting.
One of the best ways to assure that a meeting will be a waste of time is if it is boring. When people are bored, they check out. And people who are not present are not participating. When people aren’t inspired to contribute to a meeting, it just lessens its purpose. Even if all people will do is listen – a boring meeting makes even that impossible. I have gotten mind-wandering down to a science because of sitting through boring meetings.
I am constantly trying to think of new ways to make meetings more interesting. Aside from offering a nice lunch, which seems to work great – I also try to jazz it up by using a cool meeting space with toys. By toys, I mean gadgets. My colleagues love gadgets. The more stuff there is to play with – like new devices to try out, the better.
Contrary to what some of my colleagues may think, meetings are supposed to serve a purpose other than a chance to get away from your desk and have a coffee, lunch or snack. Sure, we use special treats to lure people to meetings. But that’s not why we have them. Therefore, when a meeting doesn’t accomplish anything – we all pay one way or another.
Another way to make meetings more lively is to use visual arts to make a point. Even a dry presentation can be made more interesting by adding a little punch to it. One time, we added some ambient music to a visual presentation. I still don’t remember what the track was, but everyone wanted to know its name afterwards. That at least told me that they were paying attention!
The truth is that no business can afford to have unproductive meetings. Time is money – that is a fact of life. It may not seem like it to someone who draws a paycheck no matter what, but shareholders and entrepreneurs know all too well how much a waste of time costs. So try out some cool new meeting spaces – it will do a lot to inspire people to come and really participate.