Minimalist Meetings (And Why You Should Consider One)

Meeting PlanningThe other day, a colleague remarked to me that a recent presentation she’d given to a small group had gone extremely well — in fact, better than expected.  What surprised her wasn’t the high level of audience interest and participation but the fact that she was able to achieve that high level of engagement without the usual bells and whistles.

The meeting room where she presented lacked a projector; and, caught without a backup plan, she was forced to present without modern technology.  The result, she said, was an interesting, spirited discussion that had participants asking great questions that opened up new avenues of thought for the meeting.  It was as if by removing the fancy presentation and animated graphics, she had removed the distractions.

My friend had experienced what I like to call minimalist meetings.

Minimalist Meetings

A minimalist meeting is one in which little or no technology is used to facilitate the meeting.  Instead of PowerPoint slides, the presenter speaks from notes or conversationally, without notes.  All cell phones, smart phones, tablets and electronic devices are switched off or left outside of the meeting room.  And that’s it.  No gadgets, no fancy technology, no bells and whistles…just good old-fashioned conversation.

Minimalist Meetings Encourage the Exchange of Ideas

Technology offers many benefits, but it also has some drawbacks.  It can be used to entertain and inform, but many times, it lacks the human interaction that is so vital to the exchange of energy that needs to accompany the exchange of ideas.

As my colleague noted in the anecdote I shared at the beginning of this post, the energy level in the room during her minimalist meeting was actually higher than in similar meetings in which she had been able to rely on her projected presentation.

Because there were no slides to distract the audience, the audience had to listen to her instead of staring at the screen at the front of the room.  Because my colleague wasn’t constantly pointing to slides, she was able to make more frequent eye-contact with the attendees, another technique to keep people engaged in the conversation rather than passively staring at a screen.  And because she wasn’t tied down to a clicker, pointer or computer to move the slides ahead, she could circulate throughout the room, getting to know the attendees and answering questions more easily.  The entire presentation bubbled with energy and enthusiasm.

Why Minimalist Meetings Work

Minimalist meetings work because once the distraction of technology is removed, there’s nothing left to focus on but the concepts presented.  Whether the meeting is intended as an information-sharing event, problem-solving sessions, or a training seminar, without the distraction of technology, the participants can focus, share and interact as people are meant to do, without the buzz, beep and ring tones of modern life.  The result is energy, enthusiasm, and often a better meeting experience for all.

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