PCO Dan Vernon* talks about the sure-fire steps you can take to guarantee your event achieves absolutely nothing and is completely meaningless, every time.
Have too many invitees. Lots of people, even smart ones and especially senior managers, love the sound of their own voice and see meetings as an opportunity to pontificate and show off. Lots of time-wasting will ensue.
Don’t have a chairperson or anybody running it. Just let everyone who wants to talk ramble on.
Never have an agenda. For the same reason.
If you do have an agenda, don’t stick to it. That way more people can go off on tangents and bore everyone else. And only distribute the agenda shortly beforehand.
Ensure it runs over time. Many attendees have much more productive, money-making things to do. (Most meetings in the history of human civilisation have run over time, so be sure to maintain this tradition). Even better, if you have a presentation to make and five minutes to do it in, show a hundred PowerPoint slides or more.
Set unreasonable expectations. Why not advertise the event beforehand as a game-changing forum that will revolutionise people’s lives, ensure revenue will double or thrill them like nothing else? That way you can over-promise and thus guarantee they’ll feel let down, depressed even, afterwards.
Have a bully running it. With a head-kicker in charge of proceedings you can help ensure there’ll be raised voices and embarrassing dressing-downs of peers in public, just to make everyone’s experience of feeling trapped in their seat additionally unpleasant. Meetings run by people who everyone else hates are equally effective in doing this.
Try to nod off. This is especially appropriate if it’s just after lunch and your boss, who you’ve recently asked for a raise, is the chairperson doing the talking close by.
Set it up for the afternoon or evening. Mornings are widely known to be the most productive time for meetings, so hold them later when everyone’s keen to get home, pick up kids or have something else important to do.
Don’t prepare. This is a key step if the forum is meant to explain vital organisational plans. And if people ask you hard questions you could then experience the visceral fear of being lost for words, or publicly criticised.
Remember: no follow-ups. Never decide on action to be taken after the meeting. That way when it’s finally over, everyone within minutes can forget it happened and get on with other stuff.
Never record anything. If you do perchance come up with action plans, don’t make note of them or appoint someone to follow them up.
Say “we’ll continue this discussion off-line”. It’ll likely never happen.
Get an irrelevant celebrity speaker. If you pay big bucks for a guest speaker, make sure what they say has no relevance for your people or organisation.
Don’t worry about the impact your comments or actions in the meeting have on others. We are who we are, right? Who cares if they hate you for showing them up as foolish and seek ways to get revenge for the next forty years?
Don’t listen. Daydream or fantasise. Never heed advice. Other people’s feedback is useless, and what do they know anyway?
Don’t share. If you have good advice to share or come up with a great idea, never let others in the meeting know. They’ll just take the credit.
Bombard attendees with rah-rah, PT-instructor-like clichés. While a few people love team-building jargon, those (in the majority) who have more lone-wolf-type personalities can’t stand it. That way when as the coordinator you say things like “c’mon let’s stretch those legs, wassa matter with you?” or “we’re gonna do some team-building here folks and we’re gonna have fun,” you can guarantee they’ll wish they were somewhere else and won’t contribute.
Organise team-building activities they hate. If most delegates are elderly, arrange indoor rock climbing or white-water rafting. If they have fuller figures, arrange for gruelling bush walks. If you know they’re mostly atheists, publicly ask for divine assistance to ensure the meeting’s a success. You get the idea . . .
Never give delegates time off. People at meetings and events just love being cooped up till 10pm when they’re offsite in a beautiful venue with, say, a spa, golf course, pool, great shopping precincts and so forth near to hand, preferably within view outside the meeting room window.
According to Microsoft, research shows that more than half of people who attend meetings believe they’re unproductive. With these tips in mind, you can improve on that percentage.
* Not his real name.