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Upgrading meetings: Advice from entrepreneurs, executives and investors

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 18, 2011 02:58 PM

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Sunday's Boston Globe column collected advice from all sorts of places — non-profits, venture capital firms, and public companies — about how to run shorter, more effective meetings. The opening:
Two people sitting in a room is a conversation. Three is a meeting, and things start to deteriorate from there. As the number of participants grows, the odds increase that PowerPoint slides will be shown, meaningless “action items’’ distributed, pet projects trotted out, oratorical skills exhibited, and BlackBerrys checked.

Here's some supplemental info:

- From Forrester Research, a great guide to handling the different personality types that populate the typical company meeting.

- Chris Meyer of Monitor Talent on the importance of differentiating between two kinds of meetings: decision-making meetings, and more exploratory meetings.

- Vertex Pharmaceuticals checklist: do you really need to hold a meeting?

- Kayak chief technology officer and co-founder Paul English on how he approaches stand-up meetings and brainstorming sessions at the whiteboard.

- John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess, on "Running an effective meeting."

- How to run a 22-minute meeting, from Scott Berkun's blog.

- Finally, the best idea that didn't make it into the column came to me from Fidelity Investments. I'm not sure if anyone there uses this strategy, but here's how it goes: place a big bottle of water in front of each meeting participant. As soon as someone needs to get up to hit the restroom, the meeting is over.

If you try that at your company, will you let me know how it goes?

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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