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Is This Why Your Meetings Fail?

None of us thinks hard enough about how we start our meetings.
COLLABORATORS Patrick Lencioni
photo by Roman Soto
photo by Roman Soto

"Death by Meeting"

Most meetings are seen as a waste of time. How do you make yours meaningful? Start off with a boring recitation of what everyone knows, and you’re inviting people to “check out,” says  Patrick Lencioni, founder of The Table Group, and the author of a book called Death By Meeting.

According to Lencioni, meetings can be meaningful and engaging. They just need a big first scene to capture people’s attention. His suggestion: Follow the cue of filmmakers, and start with the drama.

“Directors and screenwriters learned long ago that movies need conflict to hold the interests of their audiences. Viewers need to believe that there are high stakes on the line, and they need to feel the tension that the characters feel…Leaders of meetings need to do the same by putting the right issues – often the most controversial ones – on the table at the beginning of their meetings. By demanding that their people wrestle with those issues until resolution has been achieves, they can create genuine, compelling drama, and prevent their audiences from checking out.”


Looking for inspiration on how to create this drama? Here are some tactics (just ignore the goofy examples):

Standup comedians know a little something about grabbing people's attention--and the brutality of a bored audience. Their common strategies? Starting with a direct question, a quotation or verbiage suggesting they're about to tell a story (mentioning another time and place, for example).

They also tend to use transitions: Linking their opening lines to the last thing uttered by whomever was speaking beforehand. See how to do this in a video from Expert Village called How to be a Standup Comedian: Preparing for an Audience.

And for more on meetings from The Table Group, you can browse through several PDFs devoted to the subject. Reprinted by permission of The Table Group.

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