"Are you lonely? Tired of working on your own? Do you hate making decisions? Hold a meeting! You can see people, show charts, feel important, point with a stick, eat donuts, impress your colleagues. All on company time! Meetings: the practical alternative to work."
So runs a cartoon recently emerging on my social media feeds. We all want to make meetings better, don’t we? We all have better things to do then sit in pointless, rambling meetings that take too long to get to the point.
The latest idea from the Wally Stott Institute to improve meetings is to ensure that they begin and end with a theme tune. Great theme tunes have been a part of all our lives. Some are local (I wouldn’t expect the Dad’s Army theme music to play well everywhere in EMEA); others are age-defined. But great theme tunes have a way of resurfacing in popular culture – The A-Team, for instance. Some are timeless and, thanks to movies, global – such as 007 or Rocky.
Now that we never attend a meeting without a smartphone, there’s no reason not to introduce a theme tune to set the mood, with the aim of improved focus and productivity.
The idea of using mood music for creativity has of course been around for aeons. There are lots of findable content on what makes for the best type of mood, either for idea generation or working productively on your own. One of my colleagues swears by acid house when working on ideas. Another team leader favours 90s house, but the rest of the team turn it off when he goes to the loo. When we run ideas sessions, our strat team always like to play dance music during the bit when people are turning up and settling in.
Now we can all take this further. Choose a theme tune for a regular meeting type in order to set the tone for the session. If you’re having to defend a UK account in an against-the-odds repitch, open and close the meeting with the Dad’s Army theme tune. If you’re reviewing work, play the Vision On Gallery theme. Regular group catch-ups can open and close with the theme from Cheers to remind everyone what a great team they are. Tech meetings will have the theme from Dr Who or Tomorrow’s World. Ethnographic research debriefs will obviously hear Life On Earth’s theme. New-business meetings generally should open with the theme from Rocky, Grandstand or Ski Sunday. Client-service reviews should hear the theme from Downton Abbey to remind the team of their place.
Then, aside from theme tunes, you could get more specific and use a pop tune to set the tone. A meeting to tell the repitch team that they have lost would use Abba’s The Winner Takes It All. Sometimes people can’t bear to give necessary feedback to team members – managers don’t want to give bad news straight. How much easier would this be if the meeting opened with some relevant music? Bad Moon Rising has been suggested – that would send a message at the start of a review. Close with Man In The Mirror once constructive progress is agreed.
Run of bad luck in the agency? There’s only one way to go as Kathryn Jacob, Jane Ratcliffe and Diana Tickell made clear at Nabs’ Stranger Than Summer bash when they performed the ultimate bounce-back song: I Will Survive.
Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom