Vice President Joe Biden isn’t the only one who has dozed during an important moment. Sen. John McCain nodded off during George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in 2007. And in recent weeks, several air traffic controllers have been busted for sleeping on the job.
Sleep deprivation has become such a societal norm, we don’t even think about it. That is, until we need the undivided attention and engagement of a room.
To avoid leading a meeting that would put Biden to sleep, drop the PowerPoint.
Most PowerPoint presentations lead folks to either tune out or poke holes, says Peter Bregman, CEO ofconsulting firm Bregman Partners, Inc.
People poke holes because you don’t require anything of them. Or, says Bregman, they poke holes because “it’s the most interesting thing to do when someone is trying to prove there are no holes.”
Rather than spurring dialogue, PowerPoint presentations focus on answers. Instead of allowing people to face one another, a PowerPoint compels all eyes forward. But meetings should focus on conversations and questions, not answers.
Try this for your next off-site meeting:
Ask executives to lead informal discussions about their colleagues’ businesses, using front-and-center flip charts to collect important points, draw conclusions, and agree on action plans with owners and timelines.
Before the meeting, ask each one to tackle an issue outside their expertise. For example, give a manufacturing problem to the head of sales. The exec’s job is to investigate the issue, then bring some ideas or solutions for the group to discuss.
It sounds kooky. But breaking people out of their silos keeps everyone from being too prideful or defensive about their turf.
“It keeps the meeting real,” says Bregman.
For the last hour or two of the meeting, develop communication plans and disseminate decisions.
There’s more, of course, to creating a meeting that’s not boring. But following the “no PowerPoint rule” keeps the energy where it should be: solving problems.
— Adapted from “The #1 Killer of Meetings,” Peter Bregman, HBR blog.