When you’re sitting in a meeting, do you ever feel like Danny Zuko, getting ready to race for pinks (you know, pink slips, ownership papers) and suddenly some ugly dude turns to you and says: “The only rule is: there are no rules!” Then, as you try to stay professional and focused on the meeting, it feels like that guy is taking whatever the meeting equivalent of a spiky thing sticking out of his car, and he’s running you off the road and ruining your paint job with it?
During meetings and presentations, that “spiky thing” usually comes in the form of comments, things such as:
- Adding two cents to the end of every point someone else makes.
- Side conversations.
- Jokes (either good-humored or snide).
- Random pontifications.
- I even heard about a meeting recently when one participant stood up and began reading from his own book!
Often, these verbal spiky things add unnecessary minutes to meetings and presentations, yet don’t add value.
Earlier this week I was exposed to a meeting ground rule that could go a long way in mitigating or totally preventing meeting attendees from wielding such verbal spiky things:
Statements can only be made in response to a question.
I found this rule to be helpful, not only in limiting the amount of time-sucking, superfluous comments but it also forced participants to think deeply about the topics at hand and to sincerely listen and to be ready to ask thoughtful questions of the speaker.
Looking to reduce the amount of noise in your next meeting? (It’s ok to respond in the comments section… after all, I did just ask you a question.)