20 Ways Instructional Designers Are Ruining My Meetings

A desperate plea for help.

May 10, 2016

Instructional designers are ruining my life.

It is in running meetings that instructional designers have caused me the most pain.

Here are 20 ways that instructional designers are ruining my meetings:

1 -  An Agenda Is Sent Out Ahead of the Meeting:

It is no longer enough simply to distribute an agenda.  Now the agenda is worked on prior to the meeting with the people at the meeting!  Attendees of the meeting have shaped the agenda to their goals - not mine!   What’s next?

2 - The Agenda Has 3 to 5 Goals for the Meeting Listed at the Top:

I always had goals for my meetings - but they were my goals.  Secret goals.  Now I need to share my goals.  And they have to be more than just my goals.  Who exactly thinks that transparent and shared goals are a good thing?

3 - Tables Get Moved:

What is the compulsion that instructional designers feel to move furniture?  God (or whoever designed the room) placed the desks and chairs in their given arrangement for a reason.  Who are we to question?  Do instructional designers move the furniture at parties?  Shouldn’t tables and chairs on our campuses be nailed down?

4 - A Whiteboard Has Been Dragged In:

Why do instructional designers insist on capturing people’s thinking on whiteboards?  And how are they able to run a meeting while simultaneously “synthesizing” on a whiteboard.  Am I the only one who can’t think and write at the same time?  Who gave instructional designers permission to use all those multi-colored dry erase pens anyway?  Am I the only one who keeps accidentally writing on white boards with non-erasable Sharpie pens?

5 -  People Go Around the Room and Introduce Themselves:

Not only do people in the room introduce themselves in an instructional designer run meeting, they say something about the reasons they are attending the gathering.  All these social connections and sharing takes time from our content!  Don’t these instructional designers know that I lots of material to get through (otherwise why call a meeting), and all these introductions are cutting into my time to cover the materials?

6 - Hierarchy Does Not Determine Speaking Time:

What exactly is the point of ascending to a high academic / administrative rank if you can’t be the person that talks most at meetings?  Shouldn’t the highest status person get to come to the meeting late, leave early - and generally set the tone of the conversation.  Instructional designers seem unaware (or they don’t care) about the status hierarchies that have always made the place run.

7 - Attention Is Paid to Creating Opportunities for Quiet People to Contribute:

I have always thought that meetings were competitions by another name.  Those that can talk the most are the winners.  And don’t the people who talk the most know the most?  Instructional designers seem determined to make sure that everybody is heard.  They seem to believe that there is little relationship between the amount someone talks at a meeting and the quality of their ideas.  Instructional designers run meetings so that the voices of everyone at the gathering are heard.   All of which upsets at least a couple of years of academic traditions.

8 - Small Groups Are Not Asked to “Report Out”:

Why, I ask you, would you ever have group break out sessions without the “report outs”.  Doesn’t everyone love the report outs?  Isn’t it great how one person in groups is always saddled with note taking and reporting?  Don’t you love how the person reporting out will usually share their own wonderful ideas, no matter what the group discussed?  Isn’t it awesome that the first group reporting back to the large room gets to speak for 20 minutes, where the last group as 9 seconds to share their big points?   Why are instructional designers ending these time honored reporting out traditions?

9 - Multi-Colored Index Cards Are Present:

Where do instructional designers buy their index cards?  They have so many colors.  Index cards appear to have no end of uses.  The last time I used index cards so much was in middle school.  And here we have instructional designers having us write, share, tack up, tag, put stickers on, and reflect on our index cards.

10 - There May Be Pipe Cleaners:

If I wanted to play with pipe cleaners at meetings then I would have become a camp counselor.  Why do instructional designers think they can get away with bringing so many of the things that we played with as kids to our meetings.  Pipe cleaners are just the start.  Markers, crayons, construction paper, ELMER'S GLUE!  Don’t instructional designers know that we went into academia to live inside our heads?  What is this rapid prototyping and building that they want us to do?

11 - Slack Is Somehow Involved:

Slack is, as far as I can tell, a cross between Facebook and Twitter for instructional designers.  Or maybe Basecamp and e-mail. LinkedIn and Tetris? I don’t get it.  Can someone offer a workshop?

12 - Research on Learning Is Mentioned:

Instructional designers don’t seem to want to do anything unless there is research to back up their practices.  I have been successfully running my meetings for decades (decades!) on what I know works best - because I have seen it work best for me.  What is all this scholarship on teaching and learning have to do with how I go about running my academic life?  Is there a Nobel Prize for SOTL?  I don’t think so?

13 -  You May Find Yourself Pairing Up:

The only time that I want to Think-Pair-Share is when I’m on vacation with my wife.  At meetings I try to do none of the 3 things mentioned in that exercise.  At meetings my goal is to Present-Present-Present.  And if I have to pair up to “reflect” - can’t I choose who I pair up with.  Someone I already know.  It is awkward meeting new people at meetings.

14 - Work Is Done At the Meeting:

Instructional designers seem to think meetings are a place to get work done.  In my world there are meetings and there is work - and never the twain shall meet.  If we actually start to get work done at meetings then we will need to call our meetings something else.

15 - Time for Reflection Is Built Into the Meeting:

Instructional designers love to talk about metacognition.  About thinking about thinking.  And instructional designers seemed determined to bring reflection into our meetings.  Me, I like to metacognate in private, with a beer, while watching HBO Now on my iPhone.  Is that so wrong?

16 - There Might Be A Backchannel:

Every large meeting now seems to have a Twitter backchannel.   I don’t understand the backchannel.  I always feel that I’m missing the real conversation.  People say so much on the Twitter that I can’t keep up.  How do instructional designers live in the front-channel and the backchannel at once?  And how do you know when you are talking to an instructional designer that they wouldn’t rather be tweeting?

17 - If a Deck Is Used in the Meeting, the Deck Does Not Suck:

Nowadays, I feel so much pressure with my slides.  I can no longer use my beloved slides with their 12 point light blue font, sitting on a light yellow slide background.  My slides had so many words on them because they were my roadmap for what I was going to say at the meeting.  I could look at my slides, and never have to look at those attending the meeting.  Instructional designers use slides with images and few just a few words.  People in the back of the room can actually read a slide put together by an instructional designer.  Who can live up to those standards?

18 -  The Meeting Might Just Be an “UnMeeting”:

Unmeetings seem to be just like meetings, except without all the bad stuff about meetings.  At unmeetings the participants create the agenda together, and then design the sessions and interactions that meet the goals of the participants more-or-less on the fly.  Doesn’t this give too much power to the meeting attendees?  Shouldn’t the people planning the meeting get to determine what will be said, and who will say it?

19 - Participants Joining the Meeting Remotely Actually Have a Decent Experience:

Whenever there is a meeting where some people are in the room, and some people are joining by web meeting, the meeting will be terrible.  The people in the room will have one experience, the people online will experience something different.  The people in the room will do most of the talking.  There will be a technical failure in the audio or the video at some point.  This is how it has always been.  What right do instructional designers have in making everyone in a meeting participate in the discussion in the web meeting environment - even when some of us are in the same room?  Why should the meeting experience for the online people be the same as it is for those of us that sacrificed to make it into the office?

20 - Next Steps and Follow-Ups Are Clear:

Perhaps most annoying of all, an instructional designer planned and run meeting will have clear next steps, outcomes, and assigned tasks.  Don’t we all have enough work to do without being assigned work from our meetings?  If tasks are clear and transparent, then how will find time to work on the projects that we think are most important?

How are instructional designers ruining your life?



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