PowerPoint has been around for a quarter century. (It came out the same year as “The Simpsons” and Prozac. Coincidence? I think not.)
Twenty-five years later, the tool is pretty uniformly hated in businesses everywhere for introducing what is now known as the “death-by-PowerPoint” meeting culture.
C’mon, people! Technology has moved at lightning speed since then! Shouldn’t your meetings change too?
Here are five things you must do to save your company from bad meetings:
1. Ban laptops—and buy everyone tablets.
The feng shui of laptops in a meeting really puts a cramp on your corporate Qi. When your co-workers are staring at the butt-side of your laptop, it doesn’t engender collaboration or conversation. Instead, it kicks off an arms-race of laptopping, where each participant is trying to stockpile email and IM replies, deftly raising their eyebrows to demonstrate they are listening, while still looking down to finish that last reply. Tablets, on the other hand, are social devices. They are flat, so people can basically see what you are doing, and they really don’t multitask. So, if you are looking at a preso on a tablet, you aren’t doing email. Which, in the end, is a good thing for effective meetings.
2. Ban all big screens.
The antidote for miserable meetings is to eliminate the big, imposing, 1984-like screen and corresponding presenter. The very image of a large screen implies that people are about to be presented-to, and the presenter is likely just delivering a finished, foregone conclusion to the poor recipients. Kill the big screen, and get an app like IdeaFlight for everyone. With IdeaFlight, each meeting participant sees the presentation on her own tablet. The presenter can still advance the slides, OR they can give control to the participants to swipe through the slides at their leisure. It’s amazing how much better a meeting is when participants are invited to use their brains. They ask great questions, have the freedom to skip around to previous or future slides without having to say, “Can you go back 37 slides?” And they wind up feeling like collaborators, not hostages.
3. If you must have a big screen, get an Apple TV
Hey big spender, you just got $500 iPads for all of your employees. Now, spend the extra $100 per conference room, and outfit your joint with Apple TVs on every LCD projector you have. With Apple’s AirPlay feature and iOS5, you can now mirror your iPad wirelessly on any screen connected to an Apple TV. If you then want to hand-off to another colleague in the meeting, you simply let them connect with AirPlay from their iPad. No more fooling with wires, changing seats to get closer to the cable, or waiting five minutes for IT to come by the room to fix your screen resolution. Stop letting technology interrupt the flow of your meetings.
4. Kill your whiteboard.
How many times have you jotted a note to yourself during a presentation, and then later re-drawn it on the whiteboard during a discussion? Or wanted to but didn’t because you forgot, or there was no time or space? These days, I don’t ever bring paper to meetings. I use Penultimate (and a stylus) to take notes on my iPad. It’s great for me because I always have them and can easily email specific notes to people. But it’s also great for a meeting. I can draw a quick diagram or graph or idea, and then (with AirPlay—see previous tip) I can display it right on the screen for the whole team to see. We can even take notes together—like an iOverhead Projector—and easily send them out via email after the meeting. I’ve even handdrawn entire presentations—it’s fast, flexible, and much more interesting than a PowerPoint preso. And, it doesn’t give off the impression that I know all the answers—it feels like work-in-progress, and people appreciate that.
5. Never again hear, "I can't access your presentation!"
I manage a distributed team, and we often have Skype meetings that span two or three continents. So to share the presentation during a working meeting, we put the presentation in a folder in our cloud content management system (we use our own product, Alfresco, but Box and Huddle offer similar things). Each team member can access the presentation through a mobile app (or through a browser). Better yet, people can post comments right alongside the presentation, even as we are in the meeting, using Alfresco’s mobile app or a browser. We can display the preso using AirPlay, and then flip over to see comments that any other distributed team member has added. It’s a great way to gather questions real time and preserve the comment stream for later.
With tablets, a few great apps and an Apple TV or two, I’m confident you can save your meetings—and maybe your company—this year.