A seems to be speaking, mostly to himself.
His slides are flapping valiantly behind him.
His audience? Well, they are all ears.
B seems to have discovered a new mobile game.He is darting yearning glances at his device, between a few strategic yes-es.C seems to be a writer in the making.
A new story is flashing in front of her eyes.
No wonder she is nodding, all attentive and wise.
And D seems to mark time by the questions he asks.
Current count of questions is 7.
Here comes the next.
But wait, is it really that imaginary? Or do the characters and their traits sound familiar?
Is this a meeting we have been part of?
Why, you might ask?
Well, you might blame it on the gross abuse of strategic terms that we sprinkle around on PowerPoints that seem to have lost both their point and their power where we change versions of the presentations but where each new bullet takes us further away from the true narrative.
Sample some of the fluff we hear everyday. When we are done looking for “out-of-the-box solutions” squinting at the sky for some “blue-sky thinking”, we “circle back” on possible solutions and focus on “low-hanging fruits”. Phew! By that time, someone in the audience might have just let out the first fateful yawn.
What can we do to avoid such “boring” meetings?
We suggest three simple ways:
1) Unleash the jargon-busting power of simplicity to start with. Instead of saying something like “I used a multi-tuned tool to process a starch resource”, simply say “I used a fork to eat a potato.”
Goodbye, jargon. There’s an easy way to test this in real life too, using the Flesch Kincaid readability score. It gives us a readability score for our text. A John Grisham novel might score an 8 on this. Scores above 10 and more could indicate more dense content.
2) Ensure authenticity. Clouding the real picture with words and numbers that do not hold meaning, or in font sizes that make it look like an eye test more than legible reading, do not help our case. Instead, we can cut out the noise to focus on the key insights and recommendations that matter, and which can enable decisions rather than spewing such an overload of data that one suffers from either a case of death by dashboard or a decision tree of management indecisions.
3) Stick to brevity. Short, simple and clear updates may be music to tired management ears. Learning again from authors who could share entire flash fiction stories in just 6 words. Example, Hemingway’s old story that went like this, “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” And there’s a bonus. It might cut both the meetings and the meeting time and let people go back to real work or to “Office” re-runs, as the case maybe.
We’ll be back soon with more real moments at work. Meanwhile, please do write and tell us which office experiences you would like us to cover.
After all, there’s enough fun at work, in the work itself.