Book Review: “Boring Meetings Suck” by Jon Petz

Before I picked up Jon Petz's "Boring Meetings Suck," there was still part of me that was still resigned to the fact that meetings were something to be tolerated, regardless of their structure or end result. Wrong. Petz's book draws a distinct line in the sand, and my expectations of torturous business meetings was totally reframed.

As you can gather from its title, "Boring Meetings Suck" is edgy with its content, pushing the well-established yet seldom-challenged traditions of business meetings. When referring to meetings, Petz is talking about anything from an everyday office meeting, to a seminar, to a larger conference event.

Petz attacks common assumptions about the meeting game with a no-nonsense approach, along with easy-to-adapt techniques. In fact, a lot of the book's early discussion goes into who should attend the meeting itself and the role of each attendee. The basic rule of thumb: There must be a reason to have a meeting, and that meeting must hold value for anyone invited to it.

Starting with "Agenda Item 1: Boring Meetings Suck … so Why Do We Have 'em?" Petz attacks old assumptions with a hefty dose of common sense. Working with the premise of insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results, Petz questions every part of the meeting process that is illogical and impractical.

Petz's techniques, classified as "Suckification Reduction Devices," or SRDs, run the gamut, correcting common blunders in the areas of preparation, meeting length, presentation and technology. Petz is particularly unforgiving in his conviction that online meetings, conference calls and Friday meetings "really suck."

Perhaps these SRD's are best demonstrated with his scathing review of Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation software that has been the staple of presentations for the past 10 to 15 years. Petz's summary and prescribed suggestions for using the program (if at all) are invaluable for meeting attendees just as much as meeting facilitators.

Another invaluable tool is a series of reoccurring "Get out!" suggestions that appear throughout the book. These are cut- the-to-the-bone techniques for leaving or excusing oneself from a meeting when events go unfairly off track. For example if a meeting appears to being heading on a tangent different to its original planned agenda. You can either:

Address the meeting facilitator, boss, or person who had the initial objectives and ask if you should begin working on those objectives separately from the group, or simply ask, "Will we reschedule?" By giving that person an either/or question, you are communicating that staying in that cage is not an option.

"Boring Meetings Suck" is comprehensive in scope and serves as a solid, easy-to-read reference guide. Think of any awkward meeting situation, and this book has it covered: organizing a meeting, public speaking, rethinking the way your own organization treats (and in too many cases wastes time with) meetings, and more. If there was ever a book that was more relevant to today's work meeting environment, this is it.

If you're not confident enough to tackle Petz's advice on taking charge of, escaping or otherwise changing the way your office meets, at the very least, consider buying a second copy and leaving it on the desk of the meeting leader or attendee in your office who could benefit most.

One disclaimer: Those of the baby boomer generation and before might remember a day when the word "suck" was considered obscene. Over the years, society and overuse has muted its meaning, but if its persists in making you cringe, the multitude of ways Petz manages to employ the word in this book might prove bothersome and inappropriate.

Wendel is the Regional Director for Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC) in Traverse City. The MI-SBTDC assists businesses with one-on-one business consulting, market research information, and entrepreneurial training. The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments is the host organization for the MI-SBTDC in the Grand Traverse region.