Meaningless Debating Societies

31 Jan

My daughter wanted to stay home from school on Friday. Eventually we finally got down to the reason–that was when her school’s “community meeting” happened. When ADD kids are forced into a meeting, boredom is crushing.

What’s even more sad is that Elizabeth is the class vice-president–which means (in theory) she should have a role in this student council, but she doesn’t. Since she has ADD like her daddy, but hasn’t had years of experience with crushingly boring meetings, it is sheer torture for her. So my wife asked me to write a letter to the school explaining what could be done to make those meetings less painful for ADD kids (of which, her Montessori school has LOTS). So here’s my advice:

First – Have a clear and simple agenda

Most meetings can be handled with a simple email. However, since elementary schools don’t have email, you could just make an announcement and get on with life. So if you need a meeting, make it a simple one with clear goals that you want to achieve. Meetings where people are just there to “check-in” or “get to know each other” are generally worthless. You don’t get “camaraderie” in a conference room.

What’s sad is that most meetings I’ve been to in the corporate world is to force one person to make a decision (usually the bosses’ boss); everyone else is window dressing.

Second – Give everyone something to do

In my current meetings, my job is to report on one thing, and then I stay silent for the other 90%. So when I still had to meet in person, I learned how to look busy and entertain myself. I learned how to write in Quikscript so that it looked like I was diligently taking notes, but in reality, I was writing snarky comments to amuse myself.

As for what we do during online meetings, well… this best captures that:

What I suggested to my daughter’s teacher was to give everyone something to do. I suggested having a timekeeper (to limit the amount of time kids had to take) and giving my daughter the responsibility to set the agenda. When you’re invested in the meeting, then it’s easier to pay attention, and feel like you got something out of it.

I find it interesting that even just looking at the first picture I found for this post, I noticed three people holding phones and three people with cameras. I can’t believe that what Miss Congeniality had to say was that important, but hey, it was a staged shot! My point is that they had something to do.

Third – Keep it efficient

If you can be efficient, quickly addressing the issues, and tabling any comments that are extraneous to the agenda (because some people just want to hear themselves talk), then you can be out of the meeting quickly, and people feel like they accomplished something.

If you can do those three things, then meetings can actually… well, mean something. Otherwise, so many meetings devolve into meaningless debating societies. But what do you think? Is there a fourth rule I’m missing? Let me know in the comments below!

One Response to “Meaningless Debating Societies”

  1. joliesattic January 31, 2021 at 10:47 am #

    Excellent! I, also have ADD and totally get lost at these. Enjoyed this.

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