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How to Run a Meeting

I’ve never been a big fan of meetings. Every encounter with another human is, of course, a meeting, but within the context of business and especially where several people are involved, the very idea of meetings makes me want to be buried alive and forced to drink petrol.

The worst thing you can do is read a book on how to run a meeting. Or employ a professional ‘facilitator’. What kind of person grows up to be a facilitator? Instead, why not use material dialectics?

Let’s imagine you’re having one of those ‘away days’ where you do your ‘blue sky thinking’ as a ‘team’. You’re thinking “Bring me the petrol quick” – right? Here are my tips for success.

The gaze of the whiteboard

The person who grabs the pen and wonders over to a whiteboard is a dangerous idiot. Why has she or he done that uninvited?

What’s happened is that that person has decided to become the sole arbiter of all good ideas. In deciding what goes onto the whiteboard and what doesn’t that person has effectively put themselves in charge.  The whiteboard gazes out at everyone, and we gaze back at it. It tells us what was valued and what to think of next, we obey it. Whiteboards are the tool of ideology.

The Beatles

Having written nothing down, you can now be like The Beatles, whose test of a good tune was always – can we remember it again the next day. The end of the meeting will suffice for our purposes.

Negative thoughts

Positive thinking is not only overrated, it’s impossible. Every positive comes from a negative, a limitation, a thing it cannot be. Why not use this to dramatic effect by asking everyone to describe the absolute worst, most incomprehensible thing your business could possible do going forward. It’ll be more honest than asking for happy clappy dreamy visions (everyone lies) and once you’ve mopped the sick off the walls, you can simply do the exact opposite of what you’ve agreed is the wrong thing to do.

Fidelity to the Event

“Hang on!” some of you cry, “What about those of us who prefer Badiou’s model of a more democratic form of dialectics? If the dialectical process relies upon something which is not itself dialectically reducible, what’s the point in having a meeting? FFS.”

Why not find out from people an idea of a big, significant Event they can anticipate in future. Something that would be meaningful to them. What is it and why would it be important? Work back from there.

Points of disagreement

The truth can be uncomfortable and difficult to express. There’s little to be gained from anything everyone agrees on and uses the same safe language to express. Those awkward moments where people are staring at each other through the corner of their eyes, filled with fear, desire, bemusement and revulsion, those are the ones to aim for. You’re onto something there.

in summary

Here’s my checklist for meeting success:

  1. No whiteboards

  2. No note making. Only good ideas are remembered

  3. No positive thinking. Generate as much negative thinking as possible, then consider the opposite

  4. Imagine a specific event in future

  5. Listen to the language used, what thoughts are unexpressed

Alternatively, you could do it standing up, make sure everyone needs a wee, all wear a hat, or use whatever technique is the next flavour of the month.

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