On a recent flight, I was revisting a TED talk from Jason Fried titled “Why work doesn’t happen at work”. In it he suggests that the audience consider cancelling their next meeting.
I might suggest that instead of cancelling it in advance, you let them show up (especially if it’s a conference call) or if it’s an in-person meeting, contact them just prior to the start time. If not, they will just fill the time with another meeting.
Instead tell them this:
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me for this hour. It’s an hour of your time you are willing to invest…60 minutes you won’t get back. Except I want to give it back to you. You came prepared to devote 60 minutes to a topic. I want you to instead use this time to do something unique. Take a fresh look at a presentation you’ve been giving and think about how to make it crisper or simpler. Read an article or a portion of a book (like “Enchantment” by Guy Kawasaki) with the goal of finding one way to do something fresh or differently. Search for and listen to 2 different TED talks on a topic that interests you with the goal of taking away some new inspiration or approach to selling or presenting or building relationships…just spend the time on you and your mind…getting better.”
“Don’t use this gift of time to answer emails or instant messages. Close your email client, put your instant message on “Do not disturb”, turn off your cell, unplug your phone, close your door, don’t talk. Sounds outrageous? It shouldn’t be. You’ve already committed to be in this meeting. So the time is already blocked.”
“Now go do it.”
Then close the call. Don’t get caught using the remaining part of the hour explaining to people what this is about. Don’t try to manage their time. Turn them loose.
I’ve been to a number of internal company meetings where we waited for some key person to join. When it was discovered they weren’t going to make it, the host would say, “Well, I’m going to give you back this time and we’ll look to reschedule.” Not surprising, the world didn’t stop turning. The company didn’t grind to a halt. While relieved to get back some time, most of us just divert it to some other “catching up” effort.
If you are in a position to call a meeting, please remember that you are responsible for all of the time that people are investing for your meeting. Is it worth it? Could you use a social business approach, like a community or discussion forum to get the same results…just on their time?
So cancel your next internal company meeting and maybe check back with your audience and ask them to share what they did with the time.
People are amazing and creative. Give them time to be themselves.