Meetings are for people not PowerPoint

Are your video calls dominated by powerpoint slides rather than people?  Do you ever find yourself watching slides and pretending to listen (while doing your emails) as someone does a powerpoint monologue?  Do you find yourself in back-to back meetings most days of the week, with no time left over for thinking, connecting or doing your actual work?

At Paraffin we believe that meetings are for people, not PowerPoints.  Unless there is a clear reason to meet with people (to debate, discuss and create clear actions), there’s no need for a meeting.

Even before COVID-19, we were feeling greater time pressure than ever at work. Companies have been increasing their demands for efficiency, smaller teams are doing the work that larger teams used to do, jobs have changed and we are given ever more challenging work to do in a more complicated world. No wonder we are too busy! “Keep up”, “put your head down” and “work harder” are what we tell ourselves, but these are no longer sustainable. Just working harder can lead to burnout, mistakes and stress, which do no good for our work, our teams or our health.

A 2018 study of 2000 US knowledge workers showed that poorly used meetings and email topped the list of things that keep workers from getting work done – after emails, meetings, interruptions and admin, the average worker has just 44% of their time left to do their job.  So most of us only start our work midway through Wednesday?  That’s crazy!We can’t create more hours in the day, but we can create more impact, by becoming more efficient and selective about where we spend our time.   And that starts by taking back our wasted time from meetings.

5 ways to spend less time in bad meetings:

  1. For presentations, cascades or updates, send a pre-recorded film for people to watch in their own time (using something like When you meet live, it’s for the discussion and debate about that presentation.
  2. On video calls, prioritise seeing each other not the slides.  As soon as there’s a discussion, come off slide share and be face to face, so you truly connect with each other.
  3. Before you agree to attend a meeting, ask for a meeting objective and agenda, and understand how you will be expected to contribute – and respectfully decline if you feel you can contribute without attending.
  4. Change your default meeting time to 15 or 30 minutes instead of an hour, so people use your time more efficiently.
  5. Try doing meetings in a different way.  Good meetings value the attention and presence of everyone there – we can all improve regular meetings so that they become better – don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you and your team.

It is difficult to change how meetings are run, or to get out of meetings that you’ve been used to attending –  these are the habits and culture that we are used to.  We don’t want to offend people, and if your boss is asking you to be there, it’s even harder.  But none of us can afford to waste time either – so we need to give ourselves the permission to constructively challenge each other to make better use of our live time.

We believe that starts with seeing each other, rather than just seeing each other’s slides.