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BOOK REVIEW: A savvy guidebook about the problems with meetings — and how to fix them


How many of us have had the unpleasant experience of being forced to sit through a meeting that feels like a complete waste of time? Or been in the position of having to run that meeting, and helplessly lost control of a discussion or agenda? Or wondered if you walked into the room conference room when a “participation mandatory” invitation brought you to a wooden, one-way presentation? These situations happen all too frequently: meetings are perhaps the worst part of working in certain places. But this terrific book, Dealing with Meetings You Can’t Stand: Meet Less and Do More (McGraw Hill, 2017), can help. I’d love to see it on everyone’s bookcase, to be honest.

Dealing with Meetings is by Dr. Rick Brinkman, an expert on workplace communication and difficult personalities. Like his previous book — Dealing with People You Can’t Stand — it’s humorous and practical, light in tone and filled with tips. People is an international top seller and has been translated in 25 languages. By the looks of it, Meetings has the goods to follow in its footsteps — including a hilariously apt quote by Dave Barry at the beginning: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.'” By setting the reader up with a chuckle and not a groan, the author makes us feel instantly more optimistic about improving dysfunctional conference calls, near-silent roundtable discussions, metronomic powerpoints and the like. It’s not an accident: Brinkman is an expert at the psychology behind how we behave why we do.


All problems with meetings fall into four categories, he asserts...  READ MORE RECOMMENDED


5 Ways to Make Meetings Productive, Efficient and a Win for Everybody


by Dr. Rick Brinkman

C-suite executives spend 40% of their workweek in meetings, according to The Wall Street JournalHarvard Business Review found that 15 percent of an organization’s total collective time is spent in meetings. Just how much of that time is effective depends largely on how the meeting is run — but top managers and CEOs don’t get there by wasting their company’s time. They use strategies that maximize productivity, minimize frustration, and end with people motivated and happy. And that approach can increase people’s productive work time by a full 20 percent.

If you want to turn a meeting from a potential obstacle to a catalyst, here’s a useful approach: think of the meeting as an airline flight. Imagine the people at meetings as passengers on a plane, trapped together in a confined space for a period of time. Consider what could happen to mar the outcome: take-off is delayed, the flight path strays off course, the airplane hits turbulence delay. The result could be a bumpy ride that lands too late for passengers to make their connecting flights — or next meetings.

As a leader, here are five effective strategies for taking the meeting from beginning to end — and coming to a safe and productive landing. I call it the Meeting Jet Process:  



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Join the McGraw-Hill Business Webinar Series!

Get expert advice from Dr. Rick Brinkman, author of Dealing with Meetings You Can't Stand!

Register for the Dealing with Meetings You Can't Stand webinar

The webinar will be on October 4th, 2017 at 3 pm EST.

The word “meeting” often elicits audible groans. A recent Harris Poll found that our Number One obstacle to getting work done is having to go to meetings. Dr. Rick Brinkman, McGraw-Hill author, speaker, and communication expert has found the cure! His powerful strategies are proven to transform the conference room into a hub of energy and action.

Dr. Rick is known for his “Educating through Entertainment” style, so buckle up for an engaging webinar where you will learn:

  • Why we should approach a meeting like an airplane flight.
  • How to question a meeting’s existence and eliminate the unnecessary.
  • How to balance participation so assertive people don’t dominate and passive people contribute.
  • How to handle sniping, whining, negativity, know-it-alls and people who never say anything.
  • How to move a group to Holographic Thinking and eliminate conflict.
  • How to craft the ideal agenda, stick to it, and start and end on time every time.
  • How to create masterful virtual meetings.

About the Book: The proven process for making the most of every business meeting―from the coauthor of the international bestseller Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

Register Now


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I just got an email from Goto Meeting stating it just gave users the ability to have 25 webcams on during a meeting. 

I can't emphasize enough what requiring WEBCAMS ON accomplishes. 

 #1 Accountability to stay focused. No multi-tasking! Yes, you heard me. 

Consider this, if I participant thinks the meeting or topic isn't significant enough that they must multi-task, then the organizer must ask 3 questions:

  • What is the purpose of this meeting? Is its purpose worth stopping people from doing all the other important things they must do?
  • Is this agenda item relevant to all participants? Every agenda item must matter to EVERY PERSON. If not, then organize the agenda so you can free people into the wild when the agenda switches to items that don't include them.
  • Has the purpose of this agenda item been clearly articulated? Each agenda item should have a statement of purpose in two sentences or less that let's each person know why it's important they are there. In addition there should be a statement of "Focus" that let's each person know how they should orient themselves and what is needed from them in relation to the agenda item.


"Webcams on" creates a FEELING OF CONNECTION, being a team. 

55% of the meaning in a communication is based on what we see
38% on how it sounds
07% on what is said.

Seeing people paying attention to what you say, nodding in agreement or even rolling their eyes communicates so much more. 

As GoTo Meeting said in their blog:

"Turning on webcams creates that human connection to help with everything from getting to know your team to more efficient sales conversions. 

25 video feeds allow users to feel like their meetings are more like a conference room where you can see all participants. Team leads with remote workers are able to view their entire teams at once, multiple remote locations meeting in conference rooms can be more interactive, even board meetings can be handled with a GoToMeeting vs in a conference room."

To be clear, this is not an ad for GoTo Meeting. Whatever system you use, I urge you to try WEBCAMS ON REQUIRED.

All my best wishes for AWESOME Meetings. ;-)

Dr. Rick

More in the GoTo Meeting blog here...


India Loves Dealing with Meetings!

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Mint is a highly reputed  business daily in India and international online. It's target audience are primarily  business executives and policy makers.

Every meeting can have a variety of problems, including preparation time, the length of the meeting, and how people interact at the meeting. In his new book, Dealing With Meetings You Can’t Stand: Meet Less And Do More, Rick Brinkman explains how to make meetings effective—be they in person or virtual. He lists various ways to recognize problems and how to follow up. We take a look at some key takeaways from the book. Book Review "...clearly, breezily, insightfully written, tightly organized and charmingly illustrated

"It's clearly, breezily, insightfully written, tightly organized, and charmingly illustrated. And it's sure to be an asset to anyone who has to deal with meetings.


What the good Dr. Brinkman does that sets this book apart from the dozens of "how-to" business books out there is provide a tangible fix. His very apt, clever, workable analogy works from start to finish to helps us reframe every aspect of a meeting - and land safely and on time. Think of a meeting like a long-distance jet flight, he suggests, including having a clear flight plan, a designated Air Traffic Controller, and a place to park tangential discussions - on the tarmac, of course. The goal: an efficient, quick, enthusiastic plane ride with little turbulence that arrives exactly as planned. I'll be it works."

Read the whole review, highly recommended

Huffington Post Interviews Dr. Rick on Meetings

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If I had a nickel for every pointless meeting that I attended, I’ve have quite a few nickels. In the corporate world, Americans waste untold amounts of time listening to people blather on about irrelevant things. 

I was curious about solutions to this common problem. To this end, I sat down with Dr. Rick Brinkman, author of Dealing With Meetings You Can’t Stand: Meet Less and Do More. The following is an excerpt from our conversation.

PS: What motivation for writing this book? 

RB: My parents met in the ghetto in the beginning of the war. My father is German and mother is Polish. They married and were sent to Auschwitz and survived through the grace of multiple miracles — including finding each other again after the war. 

I have always felt, even as a child, that I was on a mission to turn conflict into cooperation. I’ve been doing my part by teaching communication, performing 4,000 programs in 17 countries over the last 30 years and writing 5 books. 

In my experience, everyone at a meeting has something of value to contribute. The integration of people’s different points of view on any subject creates what I call Holographic Thinking™— which quickly produces higher-quality ideas and solutions, so you can meet less and do more.

Read much more in the Huffington Post interview with Dr. Rick on Dealing with Meetings



What are the top 5 mistakes managers make?

I was recently asked what the top 5 mistakes managers make. I think they all relate to meetings.

I ask you, how much of your time in meetings is really well used given the other priorities. My brother-in-law told me recently he spends the whole Monday in meetings and does absolutely nothing that brings revenue to the company or serves the customer.

So I would say the top 5 mistakes managers make all relate to letting meetings run them, instead of them running meetings.

1- Questioning the necessity of meetings that have been around forever. When people are at a meeting they are not doing a million other things. Time/Benefit of bringing people together must always be questioned.

2- No speaking order at a meeting. You need a speaking order otherwise the assertive personalities will dominate and the passive people drop out. Your eyes see from two different points of view and when your brain puts them together you see there dimensions. To have holographic thinking at a meeting requires everyone's participation.

3- No time limit for speaking at a meeting. A time limit needs to be established for any one moment addressing the group. Two minutes at the most. Otherwise some people will go on and on and on saying what they already said.

4- No visual recording of people's thoughts. Visual means you can see it. Everyone's point when speaking should be recorded on a flip chart or computer hooked up to a monitor. The difference between visual communication and auditory is visual remains over time and you can see totality.

5- No agenda. Everyone needs to know the agenda and each agenda item should tell the participant what is expected of them.

For more on this subscribe to my articles and the first two you will immediately receive are: "The Meeting Magic Process" and "The Art of the Agenda". You can get those here:

Also for tips specifically related to conference calls I refer you here:



The Unhidden Agenda

And speaking of meetings. Every meeting should have an agenda which all participants receive a few days before the meeting. The more prepared the attendees, the more focused and effective the meeting. Here are some important  elements to include on the agenda.

1. "Weird times." (See last post on Killer Conference Call Tips)

2. "Purpose." Why does this item warrant valuable human interactive time. Remember that people at a meeting are essentially saying "no" to many other important things in their life while they spend their time meeting. The purpose should explain to them why it's worthwhile.

3. "Process." What process will be used with each agenda item, i.e. presentation, question answer, voting. How much time will be allotted to each process? "What is needed from the group." This orients people at a meeting to focus on the item in the right way. You don't want one person focusing on criticizing an idea while the real agenda item is just to understand the next step since the idea is already moving forward.

4. "Prior to the meeting." What does the participant need to do to prepare themselves for the meeting. (Thank you Dr. Doni Wilson, president of the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians for this one.)

Here is a sample agenda item from Dr. Wilson.

9:14 – 9:34 Project reports Purpose: Update board on the following projects: Licensure effort Process: Presentation by Erin Waterhouse followed by Q & A (10 min) Needed from group: Attention, familiarity with written report (below), questions and ideas. Prior to meeting: Read monthly updates report below.


As a Conscious Communicator always remember the meeting formula: E = P * F

Effectiveness of a meeting is equal to how Prepared participants are before the meeting times how Focused they are at the meeting.

If you want more meeting information, sign up for my enews articles.



Killer Conference Call Tips

I teach seminars and consult on how to run effective meetings. Many of my clients must attend conference call meetings because the participants are so geographically diverse. Here are some killer conference call tips. 1. Establish a call-in and start time. Make the call-in time about five to seven minutes before the meeting starts. For example, "Call between 8:53 am to 8:57 am. The meeting will start promptly at 9:02 am."

Make your times weird; it causes people to remember and it is more likely they will arrive on time. It also shows you are paying attention to and respecting time. Stick to the times. Start exactly on time whether or not "the right" people are there. Even better, block late-comers from the call. You will only have to do this once or twice before everyone arrives on time. (This is true for in person meetings too.)

2.  Allow some cacophony at the beginning of the meeting. Have everyone say hello simultaneously before you master mute them and ask them to mute themselves. This gives people a feeling of being in a virtual room together.

3. Establish a speaking order. You can't see people raise their hand if you are on the phone. It's too easy for people to either talk over each other, or be too polite and say nothing. Print the speaking order on the agenda. When you do a round and it's a person's turn, they can either speak, pass, or say "come back to me."

4. Have an agenda. All meetings must have one. It should be well thought out with realistic time frames so that items are not cut short, but the meeting ends on time. Each participant should receive the agenda before the meeting.

5. Keep group notes of people's contributions. As people speak, someone who is designated as the flight recorder should write the essence of the point each person makes (in a couple of sentences or less). After each speaking round, the flight recorder summarizes to the group what she recorded and asks the group if that correctly summarizes the points people made.  Another option is to have the flight recorder summarize the point right after each person makes it. Each participant should also write down the flight recorder's summary so they can see it in front of them. By keeping notes visually as opposed to just listening, it allows the group to more easily understand and integrate different points of view. Continue to do speaking rounds as the agenda time permits. (After the call, the flight recorder should email her notes to all the participants.)

6.  At the end of the call have everyone un-mute themselves and say good bye together. Again a little cacophony gives people the feeling that they have been together.