Most meetings are not conversations. They are a series of lectures.
Jim from accounting gets up in front of a seated room. He shuffles through a series of slides, reiterating the words on the screen. Jenny, an assertive, quick thinker from sales, offers the lion’s share of feedback. Jim uploads the slides to a shared folder, and they are never spoken of again.
Clark Valberg, the CEO of the software company InVision, thinks there has to be a better way. Meetings with presentations “are biased toward fast thinkers and bold communicators,” says Valberg. “Instead of presenters always holding the ball in their hand, we want them to throw the ball into the audience and create more of a game.”
InVision, which makes software for designers, might seem like a strange company to try to redefine the office meeting. Its entire 750-person team works remotely, in 20-plus countries. You would think a distributed team would have to rely more on presentations and summaries of real-time conversations. However, Valberg has decided to ban slide decks from InVision’s meetings. Instead, he encourages his employs to draw.
Valberg believes that asking employs to sketch out their ideas not only helps them crystallize their own thinking, but also makes it easier for others to understand their thought process. “Sketches are, by definition, low-fidelity,” he says. “Therefore, they keep presenters from getting attached to their ideas and invite their coworkers in to participate.”
But the best part of switching from a culture of presentations to a culture of doodling happens after the meeting is done. Because InVision is entirely remote, all meeting doodles take place on a digital whiteboard tool called Freehand. Instead of meeting notes or slide decks that feel like artifacts laid in stone, the meeting’s doodle becomes an evolving document, which colleagues can return to and improve asynchronously.
Without slides, the gathering feels less like a lecture and more like a group conversation. And rather than being a place to share work that’s already complete, meetings become a place to get work done—together.