spock-powerpoint-star-trek-funnyHave you ever wondered why so many meetings and presentations have defaulted to the same old “30 slides in 30 minutes” format, all with the same blue background? I’m going to blame 1990’s-era Microsoft for making it really hard to schedule a meeting in Outlook for less than 30 minute increments and for the default template of PowerPoint.

Regardless of who’s to blame or how we got there, there will be no end of the 30×30 meeting until we all do something about it. We’d like to suggest some alternatives for you to use every day. Not only are these options just different than a standard 30×30 meeting (making the sheer novelty useful in its own right), but in many ways they are better than 30×30 meetings. They increase attendee attention, message retention and even employee morale.

Option 1: The 10 and 20 meeting. The first ten minutes are slide show. Honestly, few 30-slide presentations can’t be distilled down into 5-7 slides with just a few major points and a hand-out to provide backing and supporting data point. The rest of the meeting is a panel discussion or point/counterpoint discussing the idea, how it can and should be applied, ways it can be made better, etc. Because the content gets boiled down to its essence, it won’t bore people. By allowing more voices to get involved, the message becomes more meaningful and memorable.

Option 2: The five-minute video. The bonus of a video is that you can control every frame. You can script it so that every syllable is ripe with meaning and value. You can embed graphics with audio voiceover to provide multi-modal communication (seeing and hearing something at the same time increases recall). If the video is on a website, send the URL and have the video page itself contain all the support text that had to get left out of the video. By focusing your message into such a small period timeframe, you are forced to strip

out all the extraneous detail and stick to what really matters: the heart of the idea.


Option 3: The 30-minute activity. Ben Franklin said “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Skip the telling and showing and get straight to the involving. Build an activity that illustrates the point you’re making. For example, if you’re launching an intranet, ask everyone to bring their laptops and spend 25 minutes logging in, setting their password, uploading a profile picture, and completing their online bio. You float around and answer questions. Having done it once, they will be far less likely to ask questions about the purpose of the new toolset or how to use it. Leave the last five minutes for review and to pass out a handout filled with the information you just covered. Better yet, make a game that takes 20 minutes to play. People love games and it bypasses their built-in skepticism filters.

Option 4: The 15-minute meeting. If you want to thrill people, give them their time back.Schedule the meeting for 15 minutes, forcing you to get to the point. While it’s a cheap psychological trick, it works. You eliminate unnecessary preambles and details. Your attendees get fifteen minutes of their lives back. Everyone wins.

Option 5: No meeting at all. What if you just wrote it down and delivered the content via text and pictures? Since there is great temptation for people to ignore this kind of content, wrap it in some other sort of activity, like lunch or a contest. Or a quiz. And remind them that if they don’t pass, there will be a 60-minute meeting to review the content slowly. Very slowly.

Option 6: Alternate platform. Shorter slideshow (please!) using a different tool to show off the content: a flip chart, whiteboard or Prezi are all ways to get people to consider your message, while breaking up the monotony.

Option 7: Change up the speaker. Want to get people to pay attention? Be quiet and let someone new talk, such as a guest speaker or a local expert. Prep them ahead of time to make sure they don’t fall back to a 30×30 presentation style. That would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?