I hear over and over again that meetings go way too long (and certainly have been in more than a few of these myself). People are not always to the point (if they get to the point), and the actionable items are often embedded in lots of description and anecdote. Loose narrative is not necessarily a bad thing, and at the same time, when an institution has a meeting culture where everything happens in meetings, it is refreshing when they are planned, concise, decisive, and over.
Would it be possible to practice being concise by having a meeting on Twitter?
Here is how it might happen. You could have the first meeting in the same room, with everyone there with their laptops or smart phones. You would have to get everyone on Twitter (in most institutions, only a minority are – and still people are incredibly curious). Help them sign in, set up and connect. Then do a little practice chatting so people get the mechanics. Then start your meeting – try to conduct at least the first item completely on Twitter.
Imagine a silent room with 10 people in it all staring at their computers or phones – frankly, lots of meetings with one person talking are still like this (except people on their laptops and phones are not paying attention to the speaker – see my blog post on Email During Workshops: Bad Manners or Proof of a New Paradigm). At least this time, the other 9 people are all typing and commenting as the person sends through their very concise report, idea, or question. Every agenda item would have everyone’s multiple inputs – thoughts, comments and questions. Stop at some point and debrief it, how is it going? It is interactive? Are people getting used to saying things that are short and pithy?
The next practice might be the same group in their offices. Set a time for the Twitter meeting and have everyone start engaging on Twitter from wherever they are. Imagine in this format, some of the people might be at home, on the train, or having a coffee at the cafeteria. Again see what that is like in terms of helping people be concise, and in the next face-to-face meeting reflect on that. How easy is it to get to the point? How much preparation does it take to have a short meeting? (I think it always takes more – how many people do not prepare at all for meetings, and do their thinking on their feet? Is this why meetings can take so long?) With the Twitter meeting, how easy is it to interact and engage in the discussion? And what’s it like to have the minutes of the meeting at your fingertips immediately as the meeting is going on?
Full disclosure, I have not yet tried this myself although I love the idea. It sounds like an excellent way to help people notice the value of being concise in meetings and to help them practice that. Even in a formal learning situation it might be an interesting exercise in using social media, reflective practice, summarising, reporting, and two-way communication. If you try this, let me know!