Everyone hates meetings, except for the people who make meetings hateful for others. That’s not fair is it? But at PS Programmes, we took inspiration from the Christmas season, and realised that meetings in 2014 have the potential to be a really good game of Monopoly – minus the board, cooking sherry and sensation of having eaten an entire supermarket aisle of ham.
If your meetings are a chore that suck the energy out of you for the rest of the day, be playful – but remember games have rules…
Suitable for Ages: 4-104
Number of Players: 5+
1. Assign a Timekeeper
Like the Banker, they are in charge of the currency, and the currency in a meeting is time. Everyone, regardless of seniority, has a set amount of time – say six minutes, though you don’t need to use it all in one go – that they cannot go over, and the Timekeeper is in charge of enforcing this. It should be understood that the Timekeeper has but one job, and is expected to be strict about it. Some enforce the time limit with a subtle signalling system, others choose a bell. Some have a tazer.
Your office may wish to impose a rule that you can buy extra minutes for a pound each, and put the money to a good cause, such as the staff Christmas party 2014. I bet you have already thought of someone whose verbosity will get you into the Ritz.
2. Take Turns
In The Lord of the Flies, boys are only allowed to speak when they are holding the conch shell, and in a game you have to wait your turn. If your meetings are particularly unruly, consider a physical object, like a dealer button in a poker game, to denote whose turn to speak it is. But beware of dividing into factions, worshiping a pig’s head on a stick, and killing your colleagues before the navy turn up to rescue you.
3. Assign a Chair
The Chair is strictly impartial, and anyone breaking this rule has to put a pound in for every opinion offered. Only the Chair is able to interrupt a speaker, and appeals to interject must be made to the Chair. You may wish to get sophisticated and create a system of silent signals that deploy common office objects players can hold up to indicate the nature of the interruption:
Blu-tac = I have supporting evidence for this speaker’s view
Calculator = relating to budget or questioning profitability
Magazine = PR issues. Will this look good to outsiders?
Desk diary = something similar has been tried in the past
Pen = will this save or create work?
Hole punch = I will take delight in putting holes in the speaker’s argument
…and so on.
Like the Timekeeper, the Chair is expected to be strict, holding ultimate power and deferring only to the Timekeeper on matters of time. (The Chair is not bound by a time limit, unless they are a repeat offender and your kitty is below target even for Pizza Hut.)
Chair and Timekeeper roles should be assigned to different people on rotation, either per meeting, or within a meeting, with one Chair per agenda point. Company Directors may wish to decline a role if they feel they cannot be impartial.
4. Everybody Speaks
You don’t have to use your full allocation of time but everyone has to speak during the meeting. If you have nothing to say then you shouldn’t be in the meeting – and nobody gets away with it that easily. This does mean everyone has to listen to what is going on, and everyone needs an opinion on it. Nobody can claim they haven’t been listened to, or haven’t had an opportunity to speak.
If there are too many people to make this practical, it isn’t really a meeting, it’s an address or a chaired debate. Again there should be strict Timekeeping, impartial Chairing, and a healthy period of Q&A for these.
5. Summing Up
The Chair delivers a brief recap of the meeting, and this signals the end of the game.
What are the advantages of playing this Meeting Game? Although it might be slow-going at first, after a couple of rounds people should be learning to get good at it. You should find you are saving time and/or using time more effectively. The loquacious have to learn to be succinct, and the shy have to make themselves heard. The Timekeeper and Chair roles give everybody the opportunity to experience authority, and disagreements are dealt with in a clean, professional and transparent manner.
The outcomes are: discipline, leadership, democracy, and maybe a few quid to your office charity. And it’s easier to stick to resolutions if you use a bit of peer pressure, so why not get everyone on board?
Meetings take up a lot of time: if ten people are sitting around a table, and one of them speaks for six minutes, that is a full working hour divided among the participants. There are 8,760 hours in 2014; let’s resolve to make as many of them happy, rewarding, fulfilling – and productive – as we can!
PS Programmes deliver presentation skills, TV and radio media training and crisis media management, tailored to the needs of our clients. This article also appears on http://www.presentationskillsprogrammes.co.uk