Book Review: Boring Meetings Suck

Get more out of your meetings, or get out of more meetings.

by / June 15, 2012

How many times have you heard, “It’s not a technology problem, it’s a people problem”? Boring Meetings Suck makes the same assertion about meetings: The people running them are the problem, not the meetings themselves.

Meetings are the “great white-collar crime,” wasting $37 billion annually, according to Industry Week, a business-to-business publication for C-level decision-makers. Additionally, two-thirds of information workers don’t think status meetings are effective, according to a June 2011 survey conducted by Harris Interactive. The survey also noted that 40 percent of respondents said status meetings are a waste of time.

So how can CIOs avoid making meetings a criminal offense?

One key — and simple — recommendation that author Jon Petz offers is having an agenda. In fact, Boring Meetings Suck is broken into eight agenda items (chapters), covering the importance of agendas, technology, presentation skills and meeting styles.

In today’s society, where information is condensed into 140 characters, meals are prepackaged for mobile consumption and CIOs always have another meeting to attend, here are some of the book’s highlights.

The next time you decide to have a meeting, determine what your objectives are. Meetings are to fulfill a common goal through communication, Petz writes. But to achieve that goal, meetings must be done with intention.

The author also examines how technologies can be effectively incorporated into meetings. Although the book doesn’t offer a foolproof method, Petz’s commonsense suggestion is to use strategies that work best for you. For example, use PowerPoint if it has proven effective for you. If not, new strategies like online collaborative tools should be considered. The technology chapter gives other tips for individuals depending on their level of tech savvy.

One of the book’s most interesting sections covers meeting styles, which might be invaluable for meeting planners. First is the open house — a novel concept that could be controversial — which lets attendees show up within a given time frame when their schedule permits, and share information however the organizer deems necessary. Consider this a drive-through wiki, which also can be modified for a virtual setting. This option offers schedule flexibility and helps organize the meeting based on priorities.

Are you a meeting organizer who gets criticized for boring meetings? Then passing the buck might be worth a try. In this style, Petz suggests that for regularly held meetings, the leader allows others to take turns running meetings. Not only does this method enable others to be more engaged in the process, but it also builds leadership skills. “Worst case, they will have a greater appreciation for what it takes to run a meeting,” writes Petz.

For long meetings where everyone gets comfortable, the author proposes the stand-it-up approach where traditional meeting elements, such as a conference table and chairs, are eliminated and attendees must stand. This style is recommended for meetings that require only little time, but otherwise would run longer because attendees are a bit too comfortable.

And finally, triple T your way to new ideas, is presented as a way to crowdsource internally on a common topic. This is done by incorporating social media and technologies into your meeting, while allowing attendees to generate ideas in their own space.

Each style has pros and cons, as well as ground rules and other tips on how to conduct each. If none of these appeals to you, Petz also describes two types of speed meeting, which are likened to speed dating. The 211-page book wraps up with “suckification reduction devices” — or SRDs — a list of productive, fun and absurd activities attendees can do to pass time in a meeting.

If you’re an organizer who’d like to get more from your meetings, then read Boring Meetings Suck so attendees aren’t busy doodling and you don’t commit the white-collar crime.


Karen Stewartson

Karen Stewartson served as the managing editor of Government Technology for many years. She also contributed to Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.