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Why Science Fairs May Radically Change Your Online Meetings

Michael Dearing has the business world buzzing with his original idea for designing meetings. As an entrepreneur and experienced manager, it’s not his first rodeo when it comes to running better meetings.

His radical idea: design your meeting like a science fair.

Designing Meetings from Harrison Metal on Vimeo.

Modify the Boring Business Meeting

The typical business meeting is scheduled in 30-minute or hour-long increments, runs longer than promised, allows the loudest voice to dominate and sucks the life out of your employees. It’s kind of like that crumb on your chin – no one may tell you about it, but everyone notices that your meetings are boring and unproductive.

Instead of simply altering your presentation, change how your employees experience your meetings. Experiment with your meeting space, switch the feedback format and consider how you want your employees to feel both during and after the meeting.

First, in order  to modify both the space and behavior of participants, Dearing wants you to ditch the chairs. Because participants stand for the duration, it creates a sense of urgency, Dearing says.

Second, dust off the printer, swap your PowerPoint presentation for print materials and slap it all on the wall like a trifold board. As you lead participants through the presentation, they’ll record their input on a single Post-it note each, and you can also appoint someone to record all of the ideas and feedback on a group whiteboard.

Finally, to make each meeting truly customized towards your goals, Dearing also advocates for modifications according to how you want participants to feel. Using these steps, you can “design the meeting you need, not the meeting you’ve always had.”

Design Your Meetings for People, not Presentations

This novel, new idea for better meetings may just be the radical transformation you need to make the most of everyone’s time in the conference room. By flipping your presentation planning to consider the participants’ experience, meetings become more time-efficient, productive, collaborative, engaging and just plain fun.

Dearing’s science fair idea for better meetings cuts to the point and wipes out time wasters. All of the visuals display at once, eliminating clicking, title slides, those funny quotes in between — instead it’s all about the meat of the meeting. Again, because everyone’s standing, you’ve also automatically placed a time limit on the meeting before people start uncomfortably shifting.

Standing meetings also encourage group productivity and collaboration, according to recent studies. Instead of focusing on their own notes and their own space, employees can more easily slip into a state of collaboration when everyone huddles around a shared space (like your “science fair” display) and contributes to one whiteboard.

In addition, this presentation style fosters engagement and interaction. Instead of deadpan stares at a slide show, participants can direct their attention at the presenter.

Think about it. When you have a trifold behind you at a science fair, it serves as a visual aid, not your focal point.

Take a note from winning science fair entrants and make it eye-catching, not flashy, and neat, not crammed. Without heavy text and bullet points to decipher, attendees can more effortlessly absorb the information, which is reaffirmed as they submit their Post-it note feedback and contribute to the whiteboard (which also serves as a handy record).

You can even consider your meeting participants the science fair judges. Take every question, and score bonus points if you explain your process and show how you got your results (in other words, demonstrate transparency).

Adopting the “Science Fair” to Online Meetings

For teleworkers and virtual teams, you could also adopt this unique presentation style to your online meetings:

  • Invite everyone to a standing mobile or online meeting. Just because your team’s not physically in a room together doesn’t mean you can’t each reap the individual benefits of standing, like increased alertness. Plus, virtual standing meetings help you avoid the impact of height on interaction and allow those that need to sit to do so without feeling excluded.
  • Use your webcam or screen share feature to present a display. When it comes to virtual meetings, you have options for mimicking the science-fair-style display that Dearing proposed. First, you can replicate this same process — sticking everything up on your wall — and use your webcam to physically guide attendees through the material. Second, you could share your screen or upload a file into your meeting room that attendees could download so they can see everything at once.
  • Let attendees chat or speak up for feedback. Post-it notes are great, but with an online meeting tool like GlobalMeet®, you can equalize air time simply by controlling the volume and display of your participants’ webcams when they speak. If you’re looking for written, anonymous feedback, you can also pose questions through real-time chat and Q&A during your online meeting.
  • Collaborate on a virtual whiteboard. If your online meeting software doesn’t currently offer collaborative features like a virtual, group whiteboard, reevaluate it! Just like Dearing’s idea, this feature allows the entire group to contribute, holding their attention and ensuring everyone’s on the same page.

Presentation ideas like this are not one-size-fits-all, but by experimenting with your meetings and taking these ideas for a trial run, you can identify the style that best suits your team. For more presentation inspiration, flip through The Little Black Book of Presentation Ideas now.

About Ashley Speagle

Ashley Speagle is a Florida-born, Georgia-raised communications specialist, couch movie critic, dream interpreter, acrophobic adventure seeker, outdoors enthusiast, and easy-going introvert.

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