The Continuant Blog

Death by Meeting: Effective Video Conferencing to Bring Your Meetings to Life

In 2004, Patrick Lencioni published a business fable entitled, “Death by Meeting.” In it, Lencioni talks about how a company can’t afford bad meetings and suggests an alternative for the kind of huddle we should be having as efficient companies. This fable inspired many questions, like, “Why don’t our employees enjoy meetings? Why don’t we come out of every meeting feeling more alive and encouraged?” In this blog, we will discuss what kills a meeting. If we can understand that together, then maybe we can do something about it. As Lencioni would say, “Bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, and that is the best recipe for mediocrity.” By the end of this blog, you will be able to identify what is killing your meetings and employ effective conferencing solutions for your team.    


What Kills A Meeting?  

Cubicle Culture: The Reason Meetings Fail Before They Even Begin 

Lencioni’s first step in finding life for a meeting is supposing what kills it. Here’s our proposition: What if the quality of a meeting is determined before it even starts? Imagine it’s your first day at a company. You walk in the door excited and filled with hope and possibility at what this job could be for you. You walk through the front door and it’s all cubicles. No one looks up as you make your way down the walkway. You’re led to your cubicle, take your seat, and can now see no one. Welcome to the workplace. Also, there’s going to be a meeting later, and we expect you and your team members to collaborate like you are best friends. And, how do you bond between meetings? Through email threads and coffee breaks. But don’t take too long in the break room. The cubicle is waiting.  

Cubical Hand Raise

We have, of course, tried this for decades. The workplace is expected to produce extraordinary human products, but not designed to produce the synergy it takes to realize such results. Surface level synergy outside the meeting makes for shallow and ineffective collaboration within the meeting. To barely know who sits on the other side of the wall and to be expected to collaborate come “team time,” that is “death by meeting.”   

Then there’s the remote employee. In 2017, The New York Times published the following quote, “43% of employed professionals are spending some time working from somewhere else.” This number has grown exponentially and shows no sign of slowing down. What does this mean for headquarters? How are remote workers equipped to receive the same benefits as in-office employees? 

We haven’t even discussed the meeting itself yet, and there is already so much to cover in the way of creating a core collaborative culture. While this article could focus on the following topics: “tearing down the cubicle walls,” scheduling retreats to discuss pain points,” or “identifying roadblocks that keep a team from working well together,” we won’t delve too much into those areas. Instead, our focus remains on the technology that fosters collaboration. It should be noted however, that great meetings are the result of a collaborative culture, not the other way around. The focus is on the success of the meeting itself, and those thoughts are formed before a meeting ever begins.   

Average Video Solutions + Sterile Conference Rooms = Mediocre Meetings 

If you read Lencioni’s DBM, he would tell you that a good meeting is like a movie. Whoever is directing the meeting has mere minutes to introduce the room to conflict. If you don’t introduce conflict and give your team something to overcome together, meetings are boring and even deadly. You don’t want the conflict in your meetings to be about how the technology isn’t working. You also don’t want your remote employees checking out because your meeting isn’t as interesting as Instagram.  

Nothing kills a meeting like technology that doesn’t work when it’s supposed to. Also, nothing makes a meeting feel mediocre like average AV technology. We’ve all been in the meeting that doesn’t start on time because of a technical difficulty. We’ve all had to settle for a lesser standard of meeting because video isn’t working. When a meeting matters, nothing is more frustrating than not being able connect properly or seeing a blank screen when you want to screen share an important document. Then there’s the amount of time it takes after “one of those” meetings to clarify the take-aways. If meetings are as important as the amount of time we spend in them, the technology that supports meetings should be appropriately prioritized.  

After you’ve decided to make your company collaborative to its core, your office and technology must follow suit. What will you do with the meeting spaces so they truly bring employees together in an efficient way?  Bottom line - if you are changing the way you work, the environment must change. 

Space to Space 

In one of our recent blogs, we talked about spatial awareness how different spaces in an office produce different results. If you want to complete your daily list of deliverables, sitting at your desk is probably the best place to work. However, if you’re with your team, a nice, long table in a boardroom is the perfect place. But what about short, powerful, idea-driven meetings? What kind of space elicits this kind of collaboration?  

The article referenced above introduces a huddle space, which is an area built specifically for the idea-driven meeting. The goal of a huddle space is to offer a comfortable setting designed to optimize face-to-face collaboration. Couches, better chairs, and easy-to-use technology enables employees to slide in and out with ease. Frequent meetings that are team-based, idea-driven, and project-related must happen to ensure the efficiency and creativity of short-term projects. Huddle spaces evoke creativity because they’re designed to release pressure and raise trust. With simple “drive in and drive out” technology, your in-office and remote employees can video conference, screen share, and make decisions mid-project to ensure success.  

Huddle Space

According to Lencioni, most of our meetings aren’t “big decision boardroom meetings”, they are the short-notice meetings after a problem is introduced. They require everyone’s attendance and full attention. From space to space, you want your technology and office setup to promote face-to-face communication. This is the setup of a new kind of meeting; one that doesn’t “kill” but creates “life.”    


Final Thoughts 

Now, imagine your first day at this new company. It’s teeming with life and conversation as you walk in the front door. With the cubicle walls down, you arrive at your desk and instantly feel a part of something bigger than yourself. When you are invited to your first meeting, it’s not in a sterile boardroom but a collaborative huddle space. You sit down on the couch with your team members and your team lead says, “We have a problem and 30 minutes to solve it.” The remote employees are tuned in from home, and the video setup is seamlessly integrated into the huddle space. Lencioni would say that whoever is running this company has made it his or her job to run effective meetings for the modern workplace. This is life by meeting.   

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