The days of show and tell are over.
No, not the show and tell that we did back in grade school where we brought in our
pet snake, souvenirs from vacation or science project and presented to the class. (Although, that was fun. Life was so easy back then!) I am referring to the workplace where we sometimes hold meetings for the sole purpose of “show and tell”.
1) What is a Show and Tell Meeting? A show and tell meeting is one where the communication is primarily one way and covers information that is readily available to read on your own in a report or powerpoint. As a meeting attendee, you are listening and following along. And, there are no actions or decisions coming out of the meeting.
- A common type of show and tell meeting is one that covers numeric results, stats or forecasts. Another type is one where the presenter reads their slides verbatim, not adding any additional information than what has already been provided.
2) Productive Meetings Rule: The opposite of a show and tell meeting is a productive meeting where we have a specific goal or outcome determined that is tied to discussion/debate, actions and decisions.
- Show and tell: My team achieved 88% in Q1. I expect to be at 100% in Q2.
- Productive: My team achieved 88% in Q1 due to two main drivers: an increase in employee turnover and a decrease in the customer response to a marketing program we just ran. I’ve set up two meetings, one with HR and one with Marketing and my peers, to discuss some of the probable causes and to generate some go forward solutions to get my team back to 100% by end of Q2.
3) Info Cascades Sometimes Make Sense: There is a difference between a Show and Tell meeting and an Information Cascade. There are times when we need to hold a meeting to share critical information with our teams or peers and we may be presenting stats or slides. But, these cascades should add additional value by explaining the why behind the results, the what, the who and the what’s next. They should include information beyond what’s readable on a piece of paper or online, often called “adding color” to the information. There should also be some engagement between the presenter and the audience to ensure understanding and to allow for Q&A.
4) Fewer, Better: Sometimes we go meeting crazy in Corporate America. I am a strong believer in having the fewest meetings possible, with the correct participants, in the shortest amount of productive time possible.
Have you uttered this phrase before: “You can attend that meeting and multi-task”? I know I have, which is kind of silly. If I am attending, but not listening, should I be attending after all? Are you facilitating meetings where you know folks are actively multitasking? If yes, you may need to relook at the purpose of the meeting or the attendee list.
5) And Then There Is Email: On a related note, I believe we have also gone a bit email crazy in Corporate America. I challenge you to think about how you can contribute to reducing email volume across your company by having a good, old fashioned phone conversation or holding a few non critical items to a 1×1 meeting. Or, think about whether an email is necessary at all.
We spend a lot of time in meetings and a lot of time reading email. Let’s work together to free up our time for stimulating work and some fun!