When I teach others about meetings, I often rely on metaphors to enhance people’s understanding of what a meeting should be. These are my three favorites.
A meeting is a machine
Meetings are a means of production. They require inputs to produce the things we want. These inputs might include questions, problems, opinions, facts or concerns. The outputs are ideas, answers, decisions, solutions and plans that the group generates. This metaphor emphasizes a meeting’s tangible results, which is critical in light of complaints that meetings are a waste of time.
A meeting is a play
Another major complaint about meetings is that they are boring. A well-written play is never boring. The characters are interesting. The story is gripping. The setting adds to our enjoyment. And in the end, the audience has been transformed. This metaphor reminds us that if we want people to do good work, we need to engage them in the process. The meeting needs to grab our attention and keep us glued to our seats until the very end. If done particularly well, we will continue thinking and talking about it for days.
A meeting is an expedition
This last description of a meeting emphasizes the idea of working together in pursuit of a clear and compelling goal. Expeditions are challenging. To reach the goal the group must demonstrate effective teamwork and solid problem-solving. When the goal has finally been obtained, the expedition’s members can savor their accomplishment. If you want your team to feel inspired, this is the metaphor for you.
If you’ve got other metaphors, use them. The important thing is that you keep your eyes firmly on the goal: A more successful meeting.