How we’re trying to put more impact in meetings while reducing the meeting’s impact
It’s the perfect time to talk about how to make meetings greener (unless you consider that it might have been helpful to do something 40 years ago while we still had a shot at saving humanity and the planet… but I digress).
First, let’s define what we’re talking about. By “green meetings,” I do not mean a meeting for people who’ve never been to a meeting before. First of all, those people don’t exist. (I, for example, have attended meetings since I chaired the “Toddlers for Extended Nap Times Roundtable” at my daycare.) And, even if those people did exist, why would they start going to meetings now? Clearly they’ve managed to weasel out of every meeting, and who wants to cater to a bunch of weasels?
Nor do green meetings refer to meetings focused on making money. Since attending meetings is supposed to represent a personal or professional investment for everyone involved, making money from meetings clearly sends the wrong message about personal sacrifice.
Finally, green meetings are not about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, the Incredible Hulk’s birthday or any Muppet-related festivities (though adding a Muppet component to any meeting can easily triple attendance).
Green meetings are, of course, designed to reduce the impact of meetings. Now you might be thinking, “Whoa! I’ve been to plenty of meetings that had no impact whatsoever. Zero. Nada. Zilch. In fact, I actually regressed both mentally and physically during my last meeting.”
As a recovering government manager, I have certainly attended my fair share of no-impact meetings. Meetings filled with enough hot air to ravage two planets. Meetings where, as Captain James Kirk once wryly noted, “Minutes are taken and hours wasted.” Meetings where people rambled on and on and on and on and on and on without ever getting to the point.
Which reminds me of when I was flown on a private jet to a meeting in Geneva where all the attendees were given monogrammed panda bears and disposable Hummers. I fondly recall eating Chilean sea bass dipped in Siberian tiger sauce while on a yacht on Lake Geneva and wondering, “When will someone invent an invisible hovercraft? ‘Cause that’d be sweet.” And, the reason I was thinking this was, yup, you guessed it, some guy was blathering on and on without ever getting back to his main point.
Anyways… green meetings. Green meetings, as we eventually got around to discussing in Switzerland while aboard our custom-built disposable space shuttle, are all about having a low impact on the environment. They’re about reducing carbon emissions, which, as I pointed out after one too many bean salads, may be more challenging than it seems. And, they’re about reducing our ecological footprint, which is why all the attendees were given hand-crafted slippers made from Javan rhino skin. The leather was surprisingly thin, leaving an almost untraceable footprint, and the fact that we were wearing skins from one of the most endangered animals made us feel that much more connected to the most pressing issue of the meeting, namely, how would we find enough bamboo to feed our pandas?
There are obvious solutions to reducing the impact of meetings, such as not having any, but, of course, this isn’t practical. Humans evolved to meet (which is why our necks are perfectly designed to support nametag lanyards). Besides, all the pressing issues of the day, such as how to reduce our ecological impact on the planet, will require us to meet now more than ever (Don’t you just love irony?).
Technology will help, but if you’ve ever watched a speaker’s frozen Skype face on a large screen for more than 12 minutes, you also know that it can cause permanent psychological damage.
Reusable lecterns that can be repurposed into table settings, edible name tags and booking speakers who suck less oxygen out of the room will also help, but really nothing serious will happen until we raise awareness.
Which, in Canada, means reminding everyone that global warming will kill hockey. Now I have your attention, don’t I? I’m deadly serious. When was the last time a Jamaican hockey team won the Stanley Cup? Now, consider how often the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens have won. Clearly, a warming planet will mean the death of hockey in Canada.
And if that doesn’t melt Canadians’ apathy and fuel their interest in greener meetings, then perhaps it’s time to bring in the greenest guns of them all.
Yup, Kermit the Frog here.
Michael Kerr, CSP, HoF, is listed as one of Canada’s most in-demand speakers. Surf over to his website to discover how to put humour to work for more success in your organization. www.mikekerr.com
Appeared in Speaking of Impact, Sumer 2014 Edition