Meetings 101 part 4

by Stuart on 26 July 2012

Today we’ll look at planning the physical aspects of a meeting.  This is important as you want all the participants to be able to contribute effectively and they can’t do that unless they can give their full attention to the proceedings.

Why wouldn’t they do that?  Answer – any number of reasons.

I attended a meeting in a glass-walled room overlooking Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  Amazing views, and it was a sunny day so the view out of the window was very distracting.  And when the chair of the meeting started to drone on, what do you think happened?  I zoned out and watched the world go by.  It was much more interesting that whatever the chair was saying.

I attended a meeting just after lunch in an airless, overheated room.  What happened? I, and most of the other people not directly involved in talking, drifted off to sleep.

I attended a meeting in a room that was so small the participants were crowded together and I couldn’t see my papers or take notes because my neighbours’ papers were overlapping mine and we kept jogging each other when we tried to write.  What happened?  I spent so much time trying to find/read papers that I wasn’t paying attention to what was being said.

I attended a meeting in a room next to a building site.  I couldn’t hear a thing that was going on.  What happened? I drifted off into my own little world and took no further part in the meeting.

I could go on and on, and you’d probably drift into your own little world, too.

You can see what I’m getting at.  

Ideally, you need to find a room without distractions, that is at a comfortable temperature, where everyone can see and hear everyone else, where there’s enough room so that people aren’t banging elbows with their neighbours, etc.

You need to make sure your attendees’ physical needs are taken care of.  Even if your meeting is only an hour long you should still have some water to hand.  Any longer and you should consider a 5 minute break every hour or so so people can move about and stretch.  It may seem like a waste of time, but even though you may get slightly less time talking, that talk will be much more productive.

If anyone needs any hardware, like a whiteboard, flip chart or projector & screen, these need to be where everyone can see them.

This is all basic stuff, but you’d be amazed (possibly not, actually) how often it’s ignored.

As part of my course, I get the delegates to make a list of all the things they could do to make a meeting an ordeal and a waste of time. Most times I get at least one flip chart page full of ideas. This becomes a “To Don’t” list. It’s a great idea. So stop reading this and go and do one yourself, concentrating on the physical side of things. Once you’ve finished you’ll know what to put on your new “Meetings – To Do” list.

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