PRODUCTIVITY

What 'Star Trek' Can Teach You About Meetings (No, Really)

In a galaxy far, far away, meetings are short, efficient, and always end with decisive action. Here's how to bring those principles down to Earth.
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OK, I realize that this topic might sound a tad flaky, but stick with me--I'm dead serious. I'm convinced that the meetings that take place inside Star Trek episodes and movies are superlative models of how you should run meetings at the office. Here's why:

1. Meetings only happen when a decision is needed.

In Star Trek, meetings happen when there's a crisis and the boss (i.e., the Captain) must decide what to do. They never have meetings "to share information" or "to reach consensus," and nobody is ever forced to sit through an hourlong PowerPoint presentation or a daylong discussion of what Sales 2.0 really means.

2. Everybody arrives on time and fully prepared.

In Star Trek, they never go over what somebody missed because they were late to the meeting, or spend the first part of the meeting getting everybody up to speed. Yes, I realize that's because it would be boring to watch that on TV, but, hey, it's boring in real life, too.

3. Inputs are limited to two to three sentences.

In Star Trek, meetings are usually limited to the smallest number of people possible, and each attendee only provides the minimum amount of information necessary for the boss to make a good decision. Meetings don't get caught up in departmental turf wars, because there simply isn't any time to spend on such nonsense.

4. Complex technical concepts are simplified.

In Star Trek, every time Data (or Spock or whoever) says something like "the rift will cause the interspacial dimension barrier to oscillate," somebody else asks, "Like plucking on a rubber band?" and Data says "Exactly."

I realize, of course, that the simplified explanations are given because the viewers need to follow the plot, but, guess what: The non-techies in your meetings need to understand what the techie just said, and a simple analogy is a great way to do that.

5. The decision ends the meeting.

In Star Trek, everyone leaves the meeting knowing exactly what just happened and what to do next. They don't waste a lot of energy questioning the decision, and they certainly don't waste time discussing stuff that already got discussed to death at the last meeting. Finally and most important, in Star Trek, what the team decides actually gets done.

Now, you may think that running a meeting this way is going where no team has gone before, but I'll tell you something. I have been in real-life meetings that were exactly like this. Not a lot of them, I admit, but more than a few. 

So if you run meetings, I have three short words of advice: "Make it so."

Preorder my new book and get an exclusive bonus chapter plus a signed bookplate. 

IMAGE: Wikimedia
Last updated: Apr 3, 2014

GEOFFREY JAMES

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed more than a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.




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