When was the last time that you bailed-out of a boring meeting?
In-person meetings are tougher to bail-out on because everyone in the room will watch you leave. They'll be looking for a reason. They'll be criticizing your commitment.
In a virtual meeting, it's easier. Especially if there are dozens of people in the meeting. You wouldn't think twice about leaving a meeting of a hundred people that turned out to be a droning infomercial for someone's product or service.
I don't like the choice to bail-out, but it's not the worst choice. It's just a choice.
Finding myself in a boring meeting I gave it some thought and drew this chart. These aren't the only choices for reacting to a boring meeting, but they do give us a range of options.
My first choice is to influence the meeting. Make it better. Help it get back on track. Even when we aren't in charge or leading the meeting we can influence the process and then the outcomes. One of my former associates, Ed Anzalone, called this "leading from the back of the room." The whole purpose is to help facilitate success, not to take over.
Things we can do to influence a meeting include:
- Asking questions to clarify and explore
- Offering helpful suggestions, especially around process
- Exploring the thoughts and feelings of others in the room
- Stepping in to intervene when someone is hopelessly struggling
- The group is small (fewer than twenty people)
- You already enjoy rapport and some form of relationship with the people in the meeting
- The stakes are high and you can't afford a bad meeting and cannot leave
- The group is large (more than twenty people)
- Your attendance has been offered as optional
- The stakes are very low
- You have something much higher priority that you should be doing
- You are not really needed in the meeting
- The outcome of the meeting is already certain
- You can multi-task and escape detection
- Creating drama
- Take a break -- maybe people are tired
- Hydrate -- maybe people are thirsty
- Eat something -- your body is a built-in chemistry set and if the chemicals are wack, watch out
- Stand up -- sure, this gets attention sometimes but that could be a good thing when you want to level up to influencing the meeting and it's also a great way to release your own tension.