Conversations, Not Meetings

Adrianne DuMond

Are your meetings a bit stale? Is the routine agenda boring and unenlightening? Do you dread going to some meetings? When was it that a meeting you attended left you energized?

These are all questions we think about, usually in privacy, but let go of in our minds. What if a meeting could be stimulating and motivating? I would suggest that it might be more like a conversation than a meeting. That is, there would be more of an exchange of ideas and opinions, as we have in conversations. It is more democratic, allows people to express opinions and thoughts, and creates ownership of the actions proposed.

A conversation is a creative process and not about working through an agenda. A conversation is a journey that takes people through a full range of thinking and not just listening to an agenda item or a problem at hand. It allows people to explore issues, invent solutions, and find ways through sticky challenges.

 So how do we change the dynamics in a meeting to be more conversational?

  • Replace the agenda with questions: After the required financial and committee reports, and minutes approved, make questions the topics for discussion. Make people think and contribute, rather then just listening. Now be truthful. Wasn’t a factor in your assessment of a meeting you liked, the fact that you could contribute your thoughts and ideas to the discussion?
  • Capture the discussion (conversation) on a white board. That is, as people contribute their thoughts and ideas, write them on the board, link them together using diagramming. Visual clues help people think better, and provide a record of the discussion for later use.
  • Invite new people to join the meeting. This could be an expert in a particular challenge the Board is addressing. It could be a client or case who has benefited from your agency’s services.  The purpose of inviting a new voice to the conversation is to provoke different thinking among those who gave of their time for a meeting.

I am sure there are more ways to energize a meeting, and I welcome any suggestions you want to share in the comment section of this post. I also don’t want to imply that it is not important to keep meetings on time and to a schedule. My thoughts are to encourage making a meeting both useful and creative so that attendees say as they leave “That was a good meeting”.

Author: Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org