How to Blow Up a Boring Meeting (In a Good Way)

A crowd of confused people who can't believe someone just blew up their boring meeting

Do you have regular meetings that inspire more agony than action? Do you find yourself and others checking out even though you’re all in the same room or on the same conference call line?

Keep reading to learn how to blow up a boring meeting—and give yourself and others the gift of a return on the investment of that time.

Meetings are Expensive…and can be Painful

As you may have read in the How to Lead a Meeting, meetings are expensive. Tack on the added dread of an ongoing meeting that adds no value, and you’re left with an energy vampire that rears its ugly head on an ongoing basis. Enough of those can drive disengagement, and ultimately, an even bigger hit to your bottom line.

Tips for getting off of the “Pain Train”

That old adage about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result also applies to meetings. If they’re painful to you, they probably are to others, as well.

Help your team get off the meeting pain train, and you’ll be a hero! Here’s how:

Tip 1: Create Ground Rules Together. How would you feel if you were invited to create a new set of “Rules of Engagement” for that boring meeting? It could be something as wild as “let’s make each other laugh” or something as serious as “work to end 15 minutes early.” Pretty awesome, right?

Now imagine if everyone in your meeting got to pitch these ideas—it would create engagement right out of the gate, with an added benefit of rallying against a common enemy: the painful meeting. Just ask, and then post the answers on a flip chart. Honor those ground rules—and watch the magic happen. Bonus points if you bring them back to the next boring meeting, too.

Tip 2: Dislocate. When talking about joints, that sounds painful. But when talking about getting out of that same old beige conference room and into an inspirational space (such as a bench outside of your office, the chef’s table at a local restaurant, or even a meeting held while walking around a lake at your neighborhood park, it’s powerful. Sometimes just a change of scenery invites the muses…and the magic.

Tip 3: Park the Devices. Have you ever been in a meeting and realized that you weren’t really there? Have you ever looked up in a meeting and realized that no one was there? It’s an especially common phenomenon in the world of laptops, tablets, and smart phones. And if multi-tasking was something our brains could actually do, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But our brains can only focus on one thing at a time.

This is why I like the idea of the “gadget basket” at the start of a meeting. Everyone puts their devices there as they walk in the room…and then they pick them up on the way out. Here’s the kicker: You’ll probably get finished faster. Fewer phones = fewer distractions = better results.

Tip 4: Rotate. Do you always lead your staff meeting? What would happen if you rotated this responsibility among your direct reports? It’s amplified if you give them the encouragement to make it their own—creativity will be rewarded. They may think of ways of engaging each other that you never even considered…and they’re developing themselves along the way.

Free leadership development? Yes, please.

Tip 5: Ask for Feedback. I’m a big fan of a simple T-chart. On the top of one side is a plus sign, and the top of the other side is a change delta (triangle). At the end of your next meeting, post that flip chart and ask the participants, “What worked well in this meeting and should be continued?” Capture those ideas on the left side. Then ask, “What could we do differently to make these meetings even more effective?” Capture those ideas under the delta. Then act on them. It’s that simple.

Transform into a Meeting Hero

Blow up that boring meeting—and I’ll guarantee that not only will you get better results, you’ll also win the hearts and minds of the participants. Meeting heroes may not wear capes or lift buildings in a single bound, but they do make a difference—one T-chart at a time!

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Avatar for Amber Lineback

Amber Lineback

Amber will tell you that her passion is learning — in all its forms. “I believe it happens when we bump into something different,” she says, “Whether it is experiencing a different culture through travel or helping a team work through conflict. Growth is a life-long process, and there’s a wise saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I get a kick out of being the student as much as being the teacher.”