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10 Ways to Not Have a Boring Meeting

I’m carrying the list of “10 ways to not have a boring meeting” forward from December 2004; for some reason it disappeared from my main blog index.

I wrote it when thinking about the problem I see at many conferences … I spend a huge amount of time speaking at organization and corporate events, and have long seen a problem where the folks planning a meeting are stuck in a creative rut. Every year, they bring in the same old “industry experts” to speak the conference. These folks come in with all the right charts; all the detailed statistics; all the deep insight into what is going on. And everyone in the room has seen it all before, and promptly goes to sleep.

And every year, they do the same old thing, with the result that everyone goes to the same old conferences each and every year, and sees the same statistics and the same charts and the same reports from the same industry experts — and everyone continues sleepwalking along….

Look, the world out there is changing at an absolutely furious pace! People don’t need reports on what is going on — they need insight on where they are going! They don’t need to hear from folks in their industry — they need to learn from folks who are different from them. They don’t need traditional insight — they need a huge wakeup call to what is happening with their industry. That’s why I wrote this post — and why it should serve as a challenge to do things differently.

Original post from 2004:

I spend a fair bit of time on the MimList; it’s a global forum of meeting planners. Someone referenced this article from Hotel and Motel Management, on the fact that many attendees at conference are finding that things are becoming a bit dull.

When I read the article, I agreed; I see many meeting organizers on autopilot, doing the same programs over and over. So I charged ahead and wrote up my thoughts on the matter, coming up with my 10 Ways to Try to Not Have a Boring Meeting:

1. Do things different. Don’t do what you did last year. Set out from the start to try to do something else. *That’s* your key objective.

2. Banish bad phrases. At your first meeting planning meeting, stop the meeting the first time someone says, “We’ve always done it that way.” Stop. Pause. Deep breath. Calmly state, “And your point is?”

3. Get a 22 year old involved. They think different! They are different! They are the ones who are really bored; the rest are probably asleep. Seek their input; it’s valuable and important. You can learn lots from them.

4. Forget teambuilding, icebreakers, keynotes, spousal programs, breakouts. Think of new words that mean new things. “Startling openers.” “10 ideas that will shock you.” “Not a keynote — it’s a dramatic wake up call.” “A big group talking about big things”. Whatever — the point is to banish words *that mean the same old thing*. Banish the words — and you are banishing a certain line of thinking.

5. Throw out your program brochure template. Hire someone you don’t like to redo it. Explain what you are trying to do, and ask them what *they* think. You might find their radical ideas present a breath of fresh air.

6. Go elsewhere. Forget Vegas, NYC and Orlando. Go to Boise! Maine! Seattle! Victoria! Halifax! Cuba! Einstein said : “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result each time.” If you take your folks to Vegas every 2nd year, it’s just another opportunity for them to get hammered in the same bar while they wake up with the same hangover to go see the same old tired opening talk.

7. Put the seats in the opening session upside down, and face them backwards! Why not? Everyone knows that they are going to come in to this big room, there are going to find lots of seats, and they are all going to be pointed at the front. SO CHANGE IT. Radical times call for radical change — and that’s a good point to get across. Heck — put the stage at the back of the room, and sit everyone up front.

8. Put a big “ITS RUBBER CHICKEN!” sign on your lunchtime chicken — and have a rubber chicken for a centerpiece! We *ALL* know it is going to be chicken. It’s going to be lousy. The fact is, we’re bored with chicken — so lets celebrate it! Lets’ note it! Let’s point it out! That itself is good for a bit of dfference!

9. Program differently! Invite a speaker you don’t know. Invite someone in from an industry *totally* unrelated to what you do to talk. Do things different — if your CEO or association head typically does the opening address, ask the newest member to say something too! In other words, do something totally different from what you do. Y’know, sort of like “opposite day,” which is what my kids always suggest to me.

10. Confront boring. The fact that there is an article like this out there *IS NOT A GOOD THING*. This is an industry suffering from a deep malaise. The same programs. The same content. The same table settings. The same stuff. The same places. The same things. The same phrases.


Think different, be different, do different. At least Apple had it right. So should you.

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