In a recent conversation with a client, we made the suggestion that the company should remove the chairs in the conference room. The suggestion got a little bit of a chuckle, but the reality is that chairs in a group discussion rarely help the team get stuff done. Removing chairs isn't a solution to the meeting problem, but it's a fantastic tactic to improve the quality of most meetings.
Seth Godin has a nice blog post on fixing the meeting problem. Seth takes a broader view of the problem, but ZURB would agree on most of his points. Removing chairs happens to be number four on his list.
So why do standing meetings work?
The first obvious reason is that people don't like to stand for long periods of time, so it creates a sense of "moving on to the next thing."
Standing gets more blood flowing and this activity encourages participation.
Long meetings standing up are tiring, so people will tend to keep them short and productive.
Standing encourages people to do something other than talk. Whiteboards become a new opportunity to drive the meeting.
Just to prove the chair point, here is a great example of standing "meetings" from ZURBwired last week. If you watch this time lapse video over the second part of the 24 hours (10PM-8AM), you'll notice there were many standing scrums. There's a great one around 1:30am where a flurry of activity around whiteboards is followed up by individual efforts and smaller scrums (keep in mind this was only one big room- there were other breakout rooms where more projects were being worked on).
If your company has a problem with meetings, start removing chairs. Get your team invested in getting projects done. Tell everyone to please stand up.
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