What meetings can learn from parties

You may have read my post on the cost of meetings. And while I feel most of them that we have to endure are useless, it is worth considering what a good meeting likes and feels like.

So in order to draw an analogy that we can all relate to, I thought I’d go for the idea behind the title of this blog post:

What meetings can learn from Parties.

Firstly the anticipation. When a we get an invite to a good party it is exciting. We start to look forward to it, plan it in our minds and think about some of the cool stuff that might happen. We think about who is going to be there and why the location sounds exciting, which could be on a boat in the harbour or just in your good friend Joey’s garage. We think about the atmosphere, and the music and actually do an ‘imagined version’ of the party in our heads. We plan for it and start to get prepared.

If it’s a party we are looking forward to we prepare for it. I mean, we want to ensure we bring stuff that makes the party better and makes the host know we appreciate the effort they are going to in order to make this thing happen. We know all good parties are an exchange where we all need to bring something. And we want the kudos that goes with making the party better.

If we are having a party the location matters. We decorate and move the furniture around. At good parties there is lots to look at, plenty of good food and people stand up, not sit down. We try and have as many conversations as we can, and meet some new people, maybe even form new long term relationships.

There is often a crescendo at a good party, a seminal speech or story that everyone enjoys. The moment that reminds us why we are all here, that salient moment. And then after it, the next day or the next week the party is talked about. Usually about how much fun it was, or why it sucked. We hope for the former. And if we are planning a party of our own, we want to learn from this one and even try and make ours a little better.

While we can’t do all of these things for meetings, the question is what things can we replicate from the party ethic? In the end we should try and make every meeting just a little bit less like a school assembly and just a little bit more like a party.


6 Comments What meetings can learn from parties

  1. Stephen Ellis

    Important to add we look forward to parties because we know we’re going to have a good time. In meeting terms, get what we expect and make us feel good. A good meeting should do the same.

    Another great post Steve.

    – Steve

  2. Don Shaw

    Most parties, like most meetings have an agenda and that really sets the tone of the party/meeting. If it’s a celebratory party people already know what they are celebrating. If it’s wake, the same applies. Meetings also have positive and negative agendas.

    By the same token some of the best parties, and meetings I have attended have been impromptu affairs where a one on one conversation has expanded and been extremely productive.

    I like the analogy, it works for me.

  3. Sean Callanan (@seancallanan)

    Another way meetings can learn from parties is just standing up. Have you ever enforced a standing only meeting? Always goes quicker & less meandering. Never been to a good party where everyone is sitting down. 😉

  4. Ender Baskan

    Another good one steve.
    But can we just simplify the thing… most people are at parties because they want to be, whereas most people at meetings dont want to be there. The success of the thing is settled before it even happens.
    Usually the majority of people at a meeting have got something to hide or nothing to give. Usually its about stuff they truly do not care about.

    I had the thought at the last concert I went to. I was up near the front, big crowd, and I was the only one around me who knew the words to the songs, the only one who knew the b-sides. The rest of the crowd were there just to tell their mates, they weren’t invested in it, and that really rubbed off on me. I was looking for a stranger to high fives, to wink at, to have some untold bond with… but it totally didnt happen.
    The gig wasn’t a memorable one when it totally should’ve been, I’d been waiting 10 years for the moment. Because their weren’t enough people who truly gave a shit.

  5. Steve Sammartino

    Yep agree Ender, and you’ve taken this post to the next level. I probably should have added the fact that meetings just shouldn’t happen unless we all know their will be a desire to be on the invite list. Most often some kind of memo would do just fine.


  6. Jeff Steinke

    Exactly. One of the biggest problems I see with meetings is that waaaaay too many people are invited who shouldn’t be there. So, similar to Ender’s problem of being surrounded at a concert by people who had no business being there, a bunch of people who don’t belong in a particular meeting are only going to bring it down (e.g. ask for extra clarification, take agenda off track, etc), not to mention waste more of the company’s $$.

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