4 Ways to Break Your Meeting Monotony

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?”

I bet none of us thought we’d be living out this existential hypothetical posed by sardonic weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) in the 1993 blockbuster classic “Groundhog Day” – but here we are.

Phil delivers this line while at a bar sharing a beer with Ralph, a local from Punxsutawney, PA where Phil has been sent to cover a small-town news story about Groundhog Day. In a doleful reply to Phil’s question, Ralph who is shown on camera staring off into dead space with melancholic eyes confesses: “That about sums it up for me.”

To which I say, same, Ralph. Same.

The culprit of Phil’s woeful disposition is a tormenting time loop that makes him repeat the same day over and over – a plot that feels eerily familiar given our pandemic-induced déjà vu. (“Wait. Have I watched this Netflix show before?” Yes, only about five times. But who’s counting, really?)

Though the pandemic dialed up this uncanny notion to full blast – with our days and then our weeks and then our months all blurring together into a hodgepodge of undecipherable moments and events – you likely already associated this feeling with another time- and soul-sucking vortex, better known as meetings.

If your work gatherings feel more monotonous than meaningful and you find yourself asking, “Am I reliving the same meeting over and over?” then heed the warnings from this timeless film.

Based on the time-loop trope, we know that Phil’s flawed thinking is believing that what he does doesn’t matter. It’s this nihilistic view that pushes Phil to the brink of insanity (and you know what they say about insanity: it’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results). In one of several acts of desperation, Phil kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil (the town’s beloved groundhog and local pseudo-celebrity) to prevent him from fulfilling his municipal and marmot duty of casting his rotund shadow and thus continuing the cycle (at least in Phil’s mind).

Now, I’m sorry to break it to you, but abducting an adorable rodent and taking it for a joyride won’t break your cycle of ineffective meetings. It’s only once Phil started to improve himself and take a genuine interest in the people around him that the cycle finally breaks – a lesson we can apply to our meetings as well.  

To end the cycle of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad meetings, try out these approaches designed to ensure everyone has the chance to be heard and make better use of the time we’re given.

4 Meeting Types To Drive More Effective Conversations

1. The Silent Meeting

Popularized by Amazon, this meeting concept centers around a shared document, such as a Google doc (but not a PowerPoint), that is accessed by attendees at the beginning of the meeting. Attendees spend roughly 50% or less of the meeting’s time reading the document and adding their comments directly into the document. Once this step is complete, the remainder of the time is used to discuss common feedback and central themes from the team’s comments.

Best Fit:

  • Brainstorms
  • Complex material

 
Benefits:

  • All voices get heard, not just the loudest, since everyone has the opportunity to (silently) comment in the document
  • Streamlines the feedback collection process by removing time-consuming, back-and-forth conversation turn-taking
  • Generates more well-considered and intentional presentations since the presenter is forced to write out their material – removing the tendency to just “wing it” during a speaking presentation

 
Challenges:

  • Not conducive to meetings where the purpose is to build relationships, morale, or motivation
  • Requires a strong meeting facilitator to distill the group’s feedback and guide the conversation
  • Requires the presenter to produce clear, articulate writing so comments aren’t wasted on clarifying misunderstood, incomplete, or ambiguous meanings

 
Resources:


2. T
he “Pile-On” Meeting

This meeting type comes recommended by Kathleen Finch, chief programming, content, and brand officer at Scripps Networks Interactive in The New York Times article on running more effective meetings. Following a quarterly cadence, this format brings together participants from different functional teams (Finch invites about 25 attendees) to discuss projects scheduled over the next six months and “pile on” their ideas. Finch’s one rule is that participants must check their job title and department designation at the door to allow for the free flow of ideas across areas of expertise.

Best Fit:

  • Brainstorms
  • Cross-functional collaboration

 
Benefits:

  • Encourages the sharing of outsider perspectives that are objective and not as emotionally attached to an idea
  • Provides a forum for cross-team collaboration and rapport building

 
Challenges:

  • Ensuring adequate project context is given prior to discussions so that contributors can offer constructive and relevant opinions on matters that are typically outside the purview of their function

Resources:

 

3. The Trends Meeting

This monthly meeting discusses and dissects industry best practices. The meeting organizer either selects a topic or delegates an attendee to choose a topic prior to the meeting and develops talking points to drive an open discussion among the team. For example, in the past, our Customer Success team has discussed topics such as the role of QBRs in modern Customer Success and how to offer customers advice on CSM compensation (a popular inquiry).

 
Best Fit:

  • Team development

 
Benefits:

  • Surfaces and promotes ideation around industry best practices and trends that may otherwise not be discussed due to the demands of daily workloads that focus on execution rather than strategy and innovation
  • Gives team members the opportunity to present in front of their peers and dive into industry topics they’re passionate or curious about

 
Challenges:

  • Benefits from having a senior leader in attendance to help steer the conversation when discussing topics that involve areas of improvement or weaknesses among the team

 

4. The Round-Robin Meeting

This meeting facilitation approach gives each attendee the opportunity to offer their opinion (which they can choose to pass) at least once before other attendees are permitted to speak again. Each attendee is expected to contribute to the conversation instead of solely relying on volunteers. “In a round-robin, attention is given to people by the structure of the meeting — not from being called on — so the pressure is off,” says Art Markman in HBR’s article on how to run a meeting without talking too much.

 
Best Fit:

  • Promoting group participation

 
Benefits:

  • Encourages more passive team members to speak up and offer their perspective
  • Sets expectations that attendees should contribute
  • Equalizes speaking opportunities in situations where a few meeting attendees regularly dominate the conversation

 
Challenges:

  • Requires a strong facilitator to promote a circle of trust among attendees so turns are not passed

 
Resources:

 

We hope these meeting formats help you break the monotony and inspire more inclusive and fruitful team discussions. If you feel like your customer conversations are also suffering from the Groundhog Day effect and rinse-and-repeat spiels, then check out our webinar on how to have more strategic conversations where you’ll learn the go-to questions that yield candid responses, conversation framing techniques, and tips on “listening between the lines” to maximize insights.

 


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Fighting Churn is a newsletter of inspiration, ideas and news on customer success, churn, renewal and other stuff and is curated by ChurnZero

 

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