How do we make meetings more interactive? 

Hey, I’m Chad and in this video, I’m going to share one really powerful framework to help you design more interactive and engaging meetings.  I’m going to share 2 really practical strategies to make that come alive. I’ll also share a story of my own that you can immediately steal and adapt to your own context. My job on the planet is to get to work with some of the coolest organizations and universities on the planet to help them make meetings happen that matter.

Blog Note: The following is an adapted and edited transcript of one of our daily YouTube tutorials. We know sometimes it is easier to scroll through written content which is why we are publishing here. Because of that, there may be typos or phrases that seem out of context. You’ll definitely be able to get the main idea. To get the full context, visit our YouTube channel here. And if you want to watch the video on this topic specifically, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to access it as well.

Help make connections and engagement really easy. I spend a lot of my time working with some of the top organizations on the planet helping to design really great conferences, meetings, etc. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve got. 

Framework # 1

If you want to make your meetings more interactive, you have to design meetings for contribution, not consumption. Way too often we think our meetings aren’t interactive and aren’t engaging. But when I look at the agenda of what you have planned, there is no engagement actually structured into the meeting. It’s all report outs, it’s all consumption, listening. 80% of the time is the leader just sharing spouting information. Maybe spouting information and then asking at the end, “Any questions? Any thoughts?” Only to get silence from the group. This is the idea in the framework before the meeting even begins, make sure that you script in and design the meeting for contribution, not  consumption. How though?

This is where the 2 strategies that I’m going to unpack in this video will come into play. Strategy number 1 is make it experiential. Strategy number 2 is make it visual. Let’s dive into each.

Strategy number 1, make it experiential

One of my favorite ways to immediately start a meeting with interaction is to actually kick off with the experience of what I call connection before content. This is a phrase I’ve talked about in lots of other videos. If you want to deep dive into what connection before content is and the ingredients.

For this video, what I’d like to do is share one way that I’ve kicked off connection before content kind of creatively. I was working with a group called coming together for racial understanding. They’re bringing people together around trainings and conversations about the really often contentious topic of race relations. It’s really important to ramp up the psychological safety quickly in the conversation. One of the ideas that we develop together was to unpack the value of talking about people’s differences rather than commonalities. I had people do 2 things to make to kick off with an experience. This also blended in strategy number 2 of making it more visual as well.

Strategy number 2, make it more visual

I said you’ve got 30 seconds this is a virtual meeting. You’ve got 30 seconds. Leave your zoom station and go grab an object and that you think everybody else will grab. And the group’s objective is to all grab the same object.  You understand that so like people literally run off screen, they come back with a  pen… Pen? Tape measure. A pen some sort of object that they think the group might have. Now, granted, there were a couple matches there were about 2 or three people in the group of 12 that brought a pen. Fairly common object. But there wasn’t as many commonalities.

Second round,I said, “Alright. You got 30 seconds. Go grab an object that you are almost positive nobody else in this group will grab. Go.” 30 seconds, they run. All sorts of interesting things. Bringing back instruments that they got on travels to other continents. Bringing back pictures that have deep stories connected to family or adventures they’ve been on. Really cool stuff, very experiential, very hands-on, very not what you’re used to in a virtual meeting which is just sit and stare at this little box all day. 

Just by that novelty of mixing it up put people’s brains in a different brain space to be able to actually want to contribute rather than just consume information. You get that that people when they go grab an object, they bring it back hold it up to the camera, or share it in the meeting. They’re contributing to that meeting rather than just passively consuming and taking in that meeting. What we then did is pivot that activity, that exercise into some connection before content. Splitting up into breakouts or small groups if you’re in person and then sharing that object, sharing that idea.

Do you see how that concept is could be applied to also connect people to the content of why they’re there. In that case, coming together for racial understanding. The intention was to talk about the value that exploring each other’s differences has rather than just assuming that the only way to connect is through commonality. You might connect that to your own content thinking about the  purpose of your meeting even if it’s as something as business as like, “This meeting is to map out or to reflect on our KPIs from the last quarter (Key performance indicators).

If you want to make that more experiential.  What I would say is, “Run out of this room, grab a sticky note and write one number that you feel like is the most interesting, essential, important KPI that came from the last month. Bring that back and everybody hold it up to the meeting.” Either hold it up to the camera if it’s a virtual meeting, or hold it up in person. You see again how contribution. You could as a leader just read off you could put up slide Powerpoint after Powerpoint after Powerpoint of slides. But it would be much more useful if you invited people to share their perspective of what was the most interesting, intriguing. Now, that’s going to spark all the conversations probably as a leader that you want to spark the source of that content though will be coming from your group rather than from you. 

The point is you might want to mix up the mode of delivery. If you need to be sharing a lot of content and you’ve got 30 Powerpoint slides to go through, what you might do is after the fifth slide, you might just put up the sixth slide and say.. I’m not going to say… I’m not going to talk about this at all. “I want you to read what’s on here and then I want you to think about if you were to distill this down into all this information into one sentence, what would that sentence be? Then turn to your uh neighbor, turn to the person next to you or split people up into breakout rooms and share that sentence with them.” Do you see how you actually presented a whole bunch of data, a whole bunch of information to the group by letting them digest it, pass it through their gray matter, their brain, their prefrontal cortex and then share it with somebody else in a different format that allows that person to remember and connect to that material more.  

They are way more likely to one have interaction happening. But they’re also way more likely to actually remember what is on that slide. If you’ve got a long Powerpoint act to get through, just say every 7 slides, do something like that. Pause and say, “I’m not going to present. Consume here. Right? Type into the chat the one thing that sticks out from you. Look at  these 2 slides. And then at the end, I’m going to ask you what questions you have about what you saw or share the highlights or share where you think we can make the most improvement.”

Do you see how scripting that contribution in  rather than consumption? I’m scripting in prompts that say, “Hey, what do you think? How do you feel about this? What are you noticing about this material?” And it makes a really big difference to the way that somebody’s brain is either on or completely off in a meeting. Strategy number 2 make it visual and make it novel. We are so inundated with Powerpoint slides that people’s brains do something different when you pull  out a giant visual and share it. 

When I’m speaking to a group of even 8,000 people on stage, I’m using zero Powerpoint slides. When I’m leading a workshop, I’m using zero Powerpoint slides. In fact, to my clients, it’s one of the things that sets me apart from other potential speakers or vendors that they’re looking for is that I don’t use a single Powerpoint slide ever.  

If I’m going to use something visually, virtually, I’m sharing my iPad and drawing something outlive. But I don’t use Powerpoint slides because everybody uses Powerpoint slides. Being able to mix up the mode. If you’ve got something really important that you want the group to think about consider, or remember, print it out it. Doesn’t have to be giant, either. You know one of the concepts we talk about a lot is in our leadership lab material is this idea of a need to be right versus a level of openness. This is just little, cheap cardboard prints out. You could print out important information on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. In fact,

I was working with a group of CEOs once in person. I went and grabbed all their glass door company reviews. I had them cut up into little quotes that people wrote about their companies and I just set out all these quotes and I said, “Alright, you’ve got 10 minutes, your job as a group is to sort all of these quotes of things that actual employees, your actual employees said about your actual company and sort them into buckets and figure out why are people leaving your organization and why are people staying.” And you see how visually, right? It’s totally useful data, useful information that was connected to the content of that meeting. But I made it really visual by printing it out and actually making it tactile as well.

The brain loves visual and experiential data. The brain tends to take language and numbers and forget about it. If you have designed a meeting where your people are consuming lots of words it’s quite likely that they’re going to forget 98% of them. And if you hung around to this point, first of all, I love you.

Thank you for being here. I’m glad you stuck around. One other little bonus tip that i like to use as a time optimus to help make meetings more interactive or a little bit more engaging is to set timers. There is something that happens when we know that we’re under pressure. There, you know, Parkinson’s law. That the amount of time that you have is the amount of time that something takes. If you say, “Here’s our objective, here’s our intention. You’ve got… We’ve got 15 minutes. And at 15 minutes the alarm’s going to go off.” If you’re in an office or if you’re at home on a virtual meeting, you can just say, “Hey Google, set a timer for 15 minutes.” -15 minutes starting now. -There we go. Outsource your timing to a meeting to artificial intelligence. It’s easier that way.

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