Would you let someone steal your keyboard?

Logan Vantrease

You walk into work on Tuesday morning. Starbucks spelled your name wrong on the cup and traffic was bad. Not exactly a great start, but the events of the day certainly haven’t hijacked your morning. Yet.

You sit down and within a few minutes, John comes into your office. John is a guy you recognize from around the office, but you don’t know a lot about what he does. He has one of those vague, yet specific job titles that are 5 words long. When John enters, he proceeds to tell you that he will be taking your keyboard for the next two hours.

You’re going to be very unproductive without your keyboard but John says that ‘this is necessary to help the team’. Would you just let him take it? Or would you question that?

Let’s imagine a slightly different (more realistic) situation – Rebecca from a few cubicles down sends you a Calendar invite to join a meeting. You don’t really know how your current tasks relate to Rebecca’s job. Even worse, the invite doesn’t offer an agenda for the meeting. When you inquire about further details, she says “this will help the team get on the same page”.

See some similarities? Why is a nonspecific invitation to a (likely unproductive) meeting different than someone taking your keyboard?

At the risk of sounding dramatic, it’s not. Both halt your productivity for the morning. Both make you stare at a screen without the opportunity to type, code, or dive into deep work.

There’s not much you can do to elevate your productivity without a keyboard. However, when meetings take your time away, it’s often a direct result of poor planning. The right mindset, preparation, and approach can supercharge the efficiency of any team’s meetings.

Priya Parker, author of ‘The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters’, brings up an interesting comparison. As a meeting facilitator, many hosts and leaders focus almost entirely on the interaction between people – managing the conversation, steering the group back on track, and deciding who will speak next.

‘Everyday’ hosts handle gatherings much differently. They hardly ever manage the conversation, instead, they turn their attention to preparation. The host focuses on the food, the location, the decorations, the invitation, the purpose, the celebration, etc. They shape the discussion through preparation. After all, controlling their friendly conversation often results in less earnest opinions and less fun.

It would be biased for us to ask which of the above gatherings you might enjoy more. We all know the answer. Alternatively, let’s ask which gathering is more likely to fulfill its intended goal.

At Nextup, we believe that those who prepare are more successful than those who micromanage. It’s why we created Meeting+. Our Slack bot messages your team before a meeting begins to collect customized information from attendees. We offer a medium to gather the insights/data you need before you walk into the war room. These preparatory materials can act as a tailored template to fluidly guide your conversation.

The owner and curator of TED Talks once said, “Many of the best things in life happen when people gather. So it’s remarkable how little conscious intent goes into planning such moments.” Why do we fail to plan? We believe it’s because people prefer to rely on routine. If something has worked somewhat decently in the past, people naturally question why they need to prepare for something they’ve already experienced.

We believe that meetings are a good thing. They are incredibly valuable because they offer us an opportunity to interact with our co-workers, to signal who we are in the organization, and to demonstrate what we care about. However, if your meetings refuse to offer the participants an opportunity to voice their opinions and beliefs, then you shouldn’t hold a meeting in the first place.

If a meeting facilitator doesn’t properly prepare the team for a meeting, then they naturally spend the entire duration trying to manage the direction of this gathering (much like improv). If the attendees haven’t received an agenda, how could they possibly know what’s relevant and what isn’t? This creates a negative impact – employees are less likely to vocalize their opinions if they’re worried the input is only slightly pertinent to the conversation at hand.

The way we prepare matters, because how we prepare is how we meet.

What makes an event, meeting, or gathering productive? A template, an itinerary, a format, or a mental model you intend to follow.

What makes an event, meeting, or gathering meaningful? Specificity.

We’ve merged industry-leading practices with the ability to customize the itinerary to your team’s individual needs. Our solutions meet at the crossroads of meaning and productivity. Meeting+ offers the best of both worlds.

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