EP 011 - Bad Meetings are a Choice, with 'Meeting Design' author Kevin M. Hoffman

Time. A luxury, a commodity... But above all else, something that should be valued, made intentional, and used efficiently. My conversation with 'Meeting Design' author Kevin M Hoffman had a great impact on me. I hope you enjoy this interview. - Get your copy of meeting design here. - Feel free to stalk the XD Podcast on Instagram and Facebook and as always thank you for listening, and if you enjoy what you're hearing, please leave share with your friends and co-workers :) 


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Tony: Howdy friends welcome to the XD Podcast. As always, I'm your host Tony Daussat. Thanks again for joining me today. I am really excited to have you here because on today's podcast I had the unique opportunity to talk with Kevin M. Hoffman. He's the author of ‘Meeting Design.’ And if you're anything like me or anyone I've ever known who's worked, meetings can suck, but they don't have to. Enter Kevin Hoffman. So without further ado, tip the interview.

Okay. Kevin M. Hoffman. Good evening, sir. Hey, how are you?

Kevin: I am great.

Tony: And I just want to say I'm, I'm so excited to have you on the show and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, uh, for taking the time out to join me today. Um, especially considering it's 9:00 PM on a Friday and you should probably be out painting the town. All kinds of red and crimson.

Kevin: I'm too old to paint.

Tony: Oh, I have too many babies to paint.

Kevin: Yeah, there you go.

Tony: Um, so for those listening who, who don't know who you are, can you give just a little background on, you know, who you are, what you do and how you got here?

Kevin: Sure. I have been working in the field of design for about 25 years. I'm not sure. Let's do the math. So 1995, a 2019, that'd be 24 if my math is good. So I started, uh, when I was a graduate student, started designing websites, uh, in the early days of the web and then designing things ever since. Uh, I've worked in house both at, uh, in nonprofits and, and, uh, enterprise level, a fortune 100 companies. Uh, most recently I was working at a large, well known bank. Um, I've worked at agencies, uh, and I started an agency, ran a distributed agency for about six years and mostly worked in the space of, um, like if you think of the, we think of the, the design process or the funnel that you have the question of like, you know, what do we believe? We know, uh, what should we make? Did we make it right? And, and you know, then did it actually work. So I tend to work earlier in the funnel, uh, more on the research and strategy and uh, architecture side and less on the the pixel side or the, the, the UI side. I don't like the word Pixel for that, but less on the um, the UI side. I've done work in both web and and native, um, but more, a lot more web than native and I've spoken to a lot of conferences written some articles and I wrote a book over the last three or four years, uh, about taking what is commonly known as the design thinking process, that kind of test and learn loop or you know, a research hypothesis, uh, iterate and test and applying that to the way we use meetings in our work.

Tony: Thus bringing us to the topic of this interview, which is your book meeting design. Um, now I think obviously everyone out there should go out and buy the book.

Kevin: Thanks!

Tony: My first question is what was the impetus for, for writing meeting design? Did you have an Aha moment or was it sort of stewing over time?

Kevin: It's definitely stewing over time. Um, I talk about this in the book a little bit, but I was at an agency about, Gosh, about 10 years ago and, um, we had a bad experience with a client kickoff this pre--I think Skype was around is prior to 2008 so Skype was probably around but it wasn't commonplace yet. And we did a kickoff via phone conference and literally had a client, a read us a document, uh, over the, over a telephone for, I dunno, like 90 minutes. It was a long meeting. And My boss at the time was like a, we can do better than that. And I really, uh, appreciate, you know, his kind of pushing the team at the time. And uh, I can't remember if he, he asked me to tackle the problem or I volunteered to tackle the problem, but I was like, I can make our kickoff meetings better. And I think I started there and you know, experimented for a couple of years and then wrote what I learned from those experiments. And then started tackling other meetings and thinking about workshops and all along, all during this time, at least in my, from my perspective and I don't know that my perspective is representative of an industry.

I think it's just a perspective, but it seemed like in the UX space there was this realization that visualizing things using post it notes uh post it notes sized ideas and different colors and thinking about taking methodologies like KJ and visualizing them on walls. That became kind of, I think in the late 2000s, it became kind of commonplace. Um, I learned it from working with companies like adaptive path, uh, uh, when they were, I was a client of adaptive paths in like 2006 and learned it from them. I'm not sure where they learned it. I'm sure if you'd go back far enough, somebody will know the first person to put post it notes on walls in a meeting. But, um, there just seemed to be a lot of interesting ways of saying, you know, we could approach this kind of meeting differently, whether it was post it notes or whether it was the, the visual facilitation and kind of Sketch-noting changes.

And I think, you know, Sunny Brown and Mike Roadie and, and before then people like David Sibbet rod around or it's things like agile, I think like, um, you know, in some ways the, the, the agile transformation of a lot of what we do. I feel like the first way you will learn what agile is, you see, you learn it as a collection of meetings and you know, uh, a series of ceremonies that you practice, you learn the, you know, you have sprints and sprints have daily standups and, and every time you finish the sprint you do a retro. And, and I think I wanted to write a book. I wanted to kind of collect all of this change that was happening in a single statement of saying that these are all ways of designing time that we spend together. And, um, some of them are sticking in some cultures and some, some organizations and some aren't.

But the fact is, I think as a, as a group of practitioners, we're asking ourselves, hey, how can we do what we do, which is apply a design lens to a problem. Um, you know, we applied the design lens to, uh, to mail and we got email and we applied to design lens to, um, uh, to social network, to socializing and we get social networks. So in my mind, there was this, there was this movement towards trying to make meetings a better attendee experience, but there wasn't anything that I was aware of that kind of pulled all these concepts together. So I wanted to write that book for me when I was coming out of college or graduate school, um, and say, you know, hey, there's these things. This is how they exist. This is how you can think about them. Um, you can be as formal as you like, but you know, treat them as, as, as tools.

Don't treat them as requirements or treat them as enemies or, you know, scape goats. And I want to be really clear, like, I hope this is clear from the book, but I'm not, I don't think I'm the first person or even the 10th person to have this realization. There's been a lot of books going back to the sixties in the 1960s and seventies. Looking at this problem and saying we can do better. Um, I think I'm happy to kind of point people towards some of those things, but also maybe kind of say, well, you know, so far, here's all the things that I was able to find. There's a lot of stuff that that's out there. I was right now, one of the things I do is I do corporate workshops where I'll go into a company and train them on, uh, either thinking about facilitation differently or thinking about their meetings are tackling specific meetings that they're having problems with. And uh, this particular company, what they, one of the things they do is agile coaching for companies undergoing agile transformation, large product companies or, or you know, traditional companies that are trying to develop an, an agile methodology. And, uh, one of the agile coaches, I was interviewing him before I go and do the workshop and he was like, Oh, you know, I do my retros as a sail boat. And I was like, what's a sailboat? And go on. Yeah. And he, he explained to me, and you could Google like sailboat retrospective and it's, it's, I dunno who came up with it, but there's half a dozen, you know, articles about it. And to me, I think that's kind of another nice example of how it's, it's uh example, it's an example of a good thing and a bad thing. Like I think it's, the good thing about it is, um, it's a sailboat. Retro is essentially using a visual map. Uh, and I credit David Sibbet with that kind of thinking, um, you know, creating some sort of visual metaphor for a conversation. So in this case, you have the -- at the end of a sprint and you have a drawing and the drawing has a sailboat and has some clouds. It has wind, it has rocks under the water, and it has an island. And you know, it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a sailboat. It doesn't take a sailor to figure out like, oh, each one of those is a metaphor. The wind is the stuff that helps us move towards the goal, which is the island. And the rocks are the risks for the project and the clouds are the things we're afraid of or, or whatever. But it's just a way of visualizing the traditional retrospective conversation, which is basically what went right, what went wrong and what do we get a change in the next spread. Um, but I think the good thing about that is this is a, it's a more sophisticated way of, of executing on that conversation. And if it sticks with an organization and with this organization in this particular coach, it seems pretty sticky. Um, it helps an organization develop a shorthand around these conversations, which is great. I also think, um, and one of the things I about in the first chapter of the book is it's really important to iterate. So I would never want to stick with the same, I wouldn't want to stick with the same anything. You know, the same approach to any meeting for too long without asking myself, well, what is this meeting in service of? Um, you know, and I don't know that this organization is doing that or not, but I, anytime I hear somebody being really rigid about their approach to it, particular agenda, there's always like a little voice in my head going, how do they know it still works?

Tony: Right. And I think that that is so, I mean, especially in, in applying the design thinking lens.

Kevin: Yeah.

Tony: I mean iteration is everything. And

Kevin: It’s the only thing.

Tony: Are there, are there ever cases where the members of the meeting are, are, are surveyed afterward in, in your, the facilitations you do and asking, you know, what could you change or, or how is it like, I mean, the, the one quote on the back said that after one facilitation, the group teared up, um, because of how transformative their time, your time was together. I mean, that's powerful stuff.

Kevin: Yeah. And I, the person who said that is very generous, that particular meeting, like I can tell you that about that meeting. So that meeting was a, there's a friend of mine named Dan Mall. He runs a company called Super Friendly and at Super Friendly. Um, Dan does this really cool thing where he, he provides opportunities for people who would normally not have access to traditional design education or learning to apprentice, uh, with directly with Dan for a period of time, usually three to six months. And while apprenticing they participate in, usually contribute to uh studio projects. And I have, uh, Dan has been nice enough to invite me to help, you know, contribute what I do to his projects from time to time. And that particular project was at an Ivy League university. So you had some apprentices which, um, didn't have. I, I'm not sure if they had a college education. They may not have had a college education, but certainly they didn't have the opportunity to go to an ivy league school. Um, and we were at an Ivy League school planning their strategy for a particular web product. And I think, you know, I was facilitating, but I was facilitating an opportunity for people to have a really a honest conversation about how they felt about the meaning.

And, uh, you know, one of the apprentices was like—I’m I’m so proud that I'm able to say to my mom, you know, I was able to come to this university and contribute to this work. You know, I didn't think this was something I'd be able to do. So my facilitation had very little to do. People being moved to tears. It was really just the opportunity to facilitate in a very powerful context. Um, they, they, it's interesting though, if I think about it, I think every time we walk into a room, you have the opportunity to have that powerful context. Like, I don't know if, if I, if you're having meetings where you're not getting to the meaning of, of your purpose, you know, why are you gathering or what is the mission of your organization? Or, you know, what is it that you're trying to achieve? If you're not, if your conversation isn't getting to that or it's not getting to, you know, the, the distance between the individual's interpretation of what the, the conversation means and how that relates to the goals or the outcomes you're trying to make in the world, it's kind of wasting time. Right. And I think, I think that's sad. Um, there's a new book, “The Art of Gathering :How We Meet and Why it Matters.” Priya Parker. And I haven't really dove into the book yet, but I love the, the implication of the title, which is, you know, there's an art to it and it does matter and it's on us to make it matter. Um, uh, um, I'm looking forward to reading the book. One of the things that she did was she interviewed I think a 100 plus people and very interesting occupations like party planners and uh, um, I'm blanking on the word…. dominatrix. Uh, she's was like a Dominatrix, and she talked to-

Tony: I wonder what those meetings are like…

Kevin: Yeah, well, but, but those are like, those are contexts where it's really clear what the expectations are, the expected outcomes are in a party or a dominatrix session or whatever. And they're very good at delivering a very specific experience. And I think that's, you know, I think that's important. And I think one of the things I argue for in my book is you should have a core competency and facilitating good conversations. And there's ways to do that. Companies have tried to do that and some of them done it very well, but if you don't try, if you don't ask yourself, oh, you know, how could we make this conversation matter? Um, then you're gonna fall back on the ceremonies and habits that you've already got.

And those are just inherited from, you know, whoever started the organization however many years ago or months ago in the case of a startup.

Tony: Right. It's so true. Um, I wanna I wanna point out a section of a book that I found really interesting when you talk about how our brains have different types of memory. Um, can you unpack those a bit and, and sort of, uh, explain why it's important to understand how our brains work?

Kevin: Sure. I can, I should say that that was the hardest chapter for me to write because I felt like any research I would do on, uh, the biochemistry of the, the human brain. Like as soon as I would like, you know how sometimes like you turn over a rock and you find like some worms, you know, if you're going fishing, I felt like I was turning over rocks and just finding more rocks and then I would turn over another rock and it was just an endless, so I did a very limited amount of my own research on, you know, what, what do we believe to be true about the way the brain works?

And then I tried to put that in the context of behaviors that we see in meetings and behaviors that I've seen over the years. I did not do a formal statistical study. So I would take this chapter, you know, as theory, and this is my theory about how the brain works in meetings. It's not necessarily a validated scientific thing. That being said, the one of the core ideas is that, um, the way memory works is there's a couple of different concepts. So one is the, the that for people who have a reasonably good vision and good hearing, there's different styles of memory. There's memory that that is the meaning we make from what we see. And there's memory. That's the meaning we make from what we hear and from what we see. We're using things like space and proximity and, and contrast to make meaning. From what we hear. We're really zeroing in on the last 30 to 90 seconds roughly. I'm thinking that's what I read in the research, uh, of, of what we've heard. And we're kind of like, um, if you can imagine like a loop, uh, playing in your brain. We're kind of looping on that until we've decided, oh, that means this, you know, so we might only be looping on the last thing someone said. The wonderful thing about combining those parts of the brain making meaning the part that is using visuals and the part that's using, um, uh, you know, oral, uh, interpretation is that they can work together to reinforce each other. And that's why many books before mine if argued for that, instead of taking notes in meetings in a private way, you take them in a very public way. So you actually put the notes where everyone can see them. Well while you're talking, it kind of creates a visual version of that loop. So you can go back to any point in the conversation and say, Oh, 10 minutes ago we made this point and that seems to connect to this, you know, and there, there are ways you can have people that are responsible for making sure that happens.

The other part of memory that I talk about, and this is the part that I feel like there's probably, there's probably as many studies that say this isn't a thing that say that it is, is the re with regards to memory in duration. So our ability to remember how many things over how much time, like uh, and what is a thing? Like a thing might be a simple concept like, uh, you know, a simple machine is a good concept. Like what does a lever and how does it ever work or what does it poorly. So we might be able to, as we're learning new two simple concepts, there's some cognitive research that says we can remember five to seven of those things every, every 10 minutes. It's like the, the magic number is six plus or minus two or five or six plus or minus one. It depends on who you know, whose research you read. What I argue is that we can do that if we can, if, if, if a neurotypical brain and, and I think, you know, it's important to think about lots of different kinds of brains, but let's say a neurotypical brain can handle that much content. You can look at the content you put into an agenda and plan it out in such a way that if you're depending on your, your attendees absorbing information that they don't have in advance of the meeting, you can figure out, oh, well this is about how much we can cover in this amount of time.

And Studies in classrooms have found that there are ways to create really good, uh, synthesis and opportunities for increasing people's memory, usually by giving them space to apply what they learn. So if you spend 10 minutes on five to seven concepts, then spend another 10 minutes applying those concepts and discussing them, or actually making something like drawing, um, that changes the way we remember things. And that over time it, in thinking about these time limits and how you put your content into these limits actually increases the ability. This is my theory, uh, increases the ability for people to act on what they do and immediate. So, you know, the worst case scenario in a meeting I think we'd be if we were to have a meeting and, um, you know, I come in with very specific things that I want to talk about. I only think about those things. And then I only remember the last thing that was said to me at the meeting, but if we break the content up, right, just like breaking up content in a design, you know, do we have headings? Is a content organized logically? Is it spread out so that there aren't long passages? Um, you know, if we break that up, we're increasing the likelihood that people are going to act on the right things or remember what applied to them and develop their own set of actions and act on those things after a meeting. Um, there's, there's a little bit about the science of memory that kind of keys to 90 minutes so that, you know, if we spend too much time, if we spend more than 90 minutes talking about something, we actually decrease a little bit of our ability to, to remember all of those things and act on those things. So when I played workshops, I, I always default to 90 minutes segments. Um, like a full day workshop is for 90 minutes segments with brakes.

Tony: You know, it, it kind of leads me into, um, often when designing digital products we talk about feature rot, where product dies, a painful death because the business wants to shove all the features and functionalities into it. And with meetings I find too often we're plagued with PowerPoint rot where, where, you know, there's a presentation or a deck that's like 30 or more slides when everybody in the room is checking slack or texting the whole time. And when there's a lot of information or a lot of visuals that need to be presented, how do we get out of PowerPoint rot?

Kevin: Well, there's, there's a designer idealist answer to this question. Okay. And then there's the, I think there's the reality of the context that we live in now. So as an idealist, as a designer, I think what we want to do is think, are we using visual design to actually compliment and empower our content? So, you know, Tufty has a, uh, uh, an article that he did about the, the, the challenger disaster and how, because essentially they tried to reduce a very complex series of things to slides, uh, and tried to bullet them on slides in a way that, um, anyone could understand it. And I'm over simplifying here, which is the whole point of what you're not supposed to do. But, uh, basically it resulted in people kind of overlooking a physics problem that led to the challenger exploding and the astronauts, uh, in that, um, tragedy passing away.

So there's, there's a tendency to think about the deck as the thing that people will use if they don't pay attention in the meeting or the thing that they will use if they don't attend the meeting. And really, you know, if we get back to the, the, the science of things, the purpose of visuals is to expand upon the meaning of a thing. So if I'm in a meeting and I'm reading, uh, bullet points, if I have, you know, five bullet points and I'm reading this bullet points to people in a room, I'm not really expanding on the meaning of those bullet points. You know, I'm not, I'm not adding value to what's on that slide. And the side isn't adding value to what I'm saying. Whereas if I know my content, there's probably visual ways of illustrating content, complex ideas, um, you know, certainly, you know, charts and graphs and other kinds of infographics.

But even sometimes the right photograph is a better way of illustrating a point, um, that you can describe, you know, but it adds layers of meaning and nuance that, that aren't possible without visuals. So that's, that's the ideal is to answer the, I think the, the context that we live in now, and this was my experience working in a large enterprise company, is that people see a lot of meetings is very high stakes. Um, in, in a large hierarchical company that follows, you know, traditional models of promotion. So you have directors and senior directors, you know, below that you have managers and principals and whatever, but you know, directors and senior directors and vice presidents and managing vice presidents and senior vice presidents or executive vice presidents and so on and so forth, all the way up to the CEO. The higher up you get, the more expensive that time is.

Those meetings are very expensive and the decisions made in those meetings have very high impact. So when you have access to one of those meetings, you feel a lot of pressure. And I think what the, what the, what our tendency is when we feel pressure is we want to remove unpredictable things. We want to remove variables. So the behavior that I saw when I was at a big company was we try to get a deck approved in advance to the, to a very high level of detail so that the meeting just ends up being essentially theater. You know where we were actually, you know, we're just gonna we're going to go through the deck with every executive one-on-one in advance, make sure they sign off on everything. So when we presented to them as a group, there won't be any surprises. And from a cost savings perspective, if, if your goal, if the outcome that you want is you want to feel like people aren't wasting their time, then that is a valid strategy.

I don't think that's a meeting, you know, I think that's a, that's a performance and there's a way to find a middle ground between that kind of performance and an actual conversation where you're actually going into, again, what really matters. What are the decisions we have to make? What, what, what, how are we going to spread our investments and, and decide what to bet on. What features are the right features for us? You know, what do we really believe our customers problems are? Those are the questions that matter. And you know, figuring out where that, where, where is that middle ground between, you know, PowerPoint theater where we've kind of made sure this is safe. And we've only said things that are safe and then we see how they respond to it and a completely deck lists meeting. Um, you know, one of the things that, that I have heard and dreamed about is companies that make experiments with removing decks as a requirement.

Saying like, this is a no deck meeting, you know, like a no laptop meeting or no phone meeting. Like having to know deck meeting and saying, um, and I think Amazon is known for doing this, saying like, here's what you need to read in advance, but there's no agenda for this meeting. You just have to have read this to attend. Um, so Amazon, if you Google like Amazon white papers and meetings, like you can't call a meeting without having written, uh, you know, a white paper about the topic. Um, like it's not just, you have to write an agenda in advance, you have to take a position on whatever the content is. Um, and then there's no agenda. You just discuss what's proposed in the white paper and if you don't read it, you can't attend.

Tony: Oh, man, I love that.

Kevin: Yeah, it's intense though. You know, I mean, I, when I was, uh, I was a vice president at a, at a, at a large company and I would spend eight hours a day, I would say seven to eight hours a day on average in meetings, sometimes more, um, and had very little time to make things or to take positions or to think, you know, a lot of my time was spent reacting in real time to the things that we're putting in front of me or you know, spending time kind of bringing myself up to speed before or after. And you know, the idea that, you know, Oh, if you want to meet with me, you're going to give me a white paper that, you know, and it could be in the form of a deck, but the deck is not the conversation. Ultimately, I'm not really talking about meetings, I'm talking about being intentional with time. And, uh, there's an old article floating out there in the Internet somewhere, uh, that someone at Google wrote, I think it was an engineer at Google, uh, uh, about the three kinds of time. There's, there's me time, there's make time and there's meet time M E E T, um, hopefully with, depending on your diet, maybe there's some MEAT time too, but, but, uh, but these three times, these three kinds of time me time, which is the time I spent doing things that give me energy are things I enjoy, uh, make time, which is the time I spent actually building the thing that I build, whether that's a plan or a design or, or you know, code or whatever, and meet time where we actually meet and assembled to make meaning together. Um, he advocated for being ruthless on your calendar with dividing your time three ways equally that, if he didn't do that, if he didn't actually calendar out, you know, these are the hours I'm making things, these are the hours that I'm putting aside from my family or for watching old films or whatever, painting or whatever it is I enjoy doing. And this is the time of it, aside to meet with people. If you don't do that, I think what happens is the thing you're describing, which is, um, the idea that, uh, uh, you lose your calendar to the meet time because the meantime is a, is a constant demand. Like there's only one of you and there's many of others. So, you know, if you're, if you're only intentional with that time, that's an endless demand, you're never going to satisfy that demand. Um, but if you say, oh, I'm always going to make time for me, um, for meeting and for making things, then you know, you're being intentional with your time-

Tony: And I think it goes beyond a work doesn't it?

Kevin: Oh yeah. As well. Beyond work. I mean, I think like there's, this, I, when I was at the big company, I took a, a really interesting kind of leadership coaching, um, you know, management coaching class called learning as leadership. Um, and, uh, there's a book that the training is based on called, uh, ‘Ego Free Leadership.’ And there was a concept they talked about in that, in that training, which is this idea of being at the source are at their mercy. So you know, the question is when you make decisions about how you use your time, are you at the mercy of factors around you? Are you at the mercy of the demand and pressure that you feel? Are you, you know, in a reactionary state where it's like, I'm going to take all the meetings I can cause I, you know, I'm afraid that you know, I'm afraid of something. You know, I'm motivated by fear. Are, are you at the source of your intention? Like are you deciding, yes, I'm taking these meetings because I recognize that they provide value for me or I'm going to spend this morning watching old star treks, which is what I did this morning because this is what I wanted to do with my morning.

Tony: Do you think-- this is getting kind of deep-- but do you think time is a commodity or a luxury?

Kevin: Yes. I mean I think time is, I think it's a commodity. Certainly. In any society where people get paid, you know, for work, um, you know, it's, it's quantified by the year and the hour. Uh, you know, we pay our contractors by the hour, we pay certain salaried employees by the hour and we pay certain people by the, you know, with an annual salary. And that's just how, that's where we've ended up. That's the human construct we use. So it's definitely a commodity. It's also a luxury because, you know, my, my parents had passed away and being present for both of their, uh, passings, um, having that experience and really reflecting on their lives and kind of being an adult without parents and, uh, thinking about what choices they made with their time. Like it's, it's totally a luxury. It's a very, you know, it's, uh, it's, it, it's a luxury in the sense that I hope people luxuriate in their time. Um, I hope I have chances to do that. Uh, because it's very limited. It's extremely limited. You know, there was a, another exercise we did in that leadership course where you, you do something where you take your age. No, you take the average lifespan of your gender. So for men it's 70 something you divided in half and then you put your, you figure out where you sit on, on that side. And you know, for most of us, we're in the second half of our lives. We're on the downward slope and, and if you don't realize that, you know, not that you should live in fear of that, but you should live at the source of, you know, Oh, this is my time. I'm using it the way I want to use it.

Tony: Kevin, what's next for you? What currently gets you out of bed in the morning?

Kevin: Uh, right now I'm, I'm working on a podcast. I don't think I've publicly announced this, but I've been recording a podcast that I'm going to start publishing-

Tony: Nice.

Kevin: Hopefully in April. Um, he's, uh, so that's something I've been working on. I've been doing corporate workshops, uh, doing some conference workshops. Uh, and I, I'm not sure what I want to do next, but what the kind of work that I'm drawn to, I really like being part of a group of people. And you know, when I'm, uh, like independent as I am right now, I create that group of probably mostly other independent people and try to talk to them regularly and ask how they're doing and what's important to them. Um, uh, I am trying to be the best dad I can be. I have a preteen son and, and uh, you know, I love his sense of humor and I love, uh, you know, that I can see he's, he's having some struggles in, you know, being in middle school and we moved recently. So being in a new town, I want to be, I want to help him through those struggles without, you know, removing the challenge. So there's an opportunity for him to learn. Uh, I want to just be present in my family life and my goal is to enjoy the time I'm spending, um, and, and hopefully, you know, really apply myself and not just waste that time.

Tony: I will say it bleeds very nicely into my final question that I ask every guest I have.

Kevin: Sure.

Tony: It is what nondigital object or thing that you own has added the most value to you or means the most to you and why?

Kevin: That's a good question. So I am a hoarder. I'm a terrible hoarder. Uh, I keep way too much stuff. We have a storage space that we pay for, you know, every month where I'm keeping stuff I don't need to keep. But if I think about like I have a shelf in my living room that has things on it that are meaningful to me, and there's one object that has it, it has a digital pedigree to it, but it's not digital. Um, it's a little mole skin notebook that my wife gave me as a gift for my birthday when my son turned five years old. Uh, so when my son was five, uh, it would have been my, let me do the math here. It would have been my, uh, 39th birthday, I think that's right. The 2012 I would have been 40. So, yeah, it was my 39th birthday and my, my wife was, she was in the habit of, uh, she would tweet, uh, every time our son would say something funny, as, you know, kids do, kids see the world in a very kind of unvarnished, uh, very uncensored way. And, and, um, my wife would tweet all the things that are five year old would say and she would always Hashtag it with, you know, 5yo. So she went back and, and, uh, looked up all those tweets and then, you know, hand wrote them out in a book. Um, and, and gave that to me for my, for my birthday. And I think it's a photograph of a period in my life where I definitely see so much of who I still am in that photograph. This is a lot of things that have changed, you know, my son is more than twice as old as that. You know, his things he loves and the things that are challenging to him are very different now. And the things I love and the things that are challenging to me are very different. But having that expression of time as opposed to, you know, tons of digital pictures of food or whatever else. We were taking pictures with our phones or uh, you know, uh, like it was just a really thoughtful way to capture what was happening at that moment. So that, that's the first one that comes to mind.

Tony: I love that. And I think, I think especially as a father myself. That really is a unique gift and really meaningful.

Kevin: Yeah, it was really sweet.

Tony: Well, this has been really insightful-

Kevin: Oh, thanks.

Tony: And Didactic for me. Um, obviously the book is amazing. Again, I think everybody should go out and get it, put it by your pillow, sleep by it, pass it around to all of your coworkers and just thank you again so much for, for taking the time out and uh, and being on the show.

Kevin: I like to talk, I'm always happened at me. I'm always happy to chat.

Tony: Hopefully we can do this again and maybe I'll catch you in person one day.

Kevin: Oh, I'd be happy to. Well let me know if you're in DC. I'll let you know when I'm in Dallas?

Tony: That's right.

Kevin: All right. Very cool.

Tony: All right, Kevin, thank you.

Kevin: My pleasure.

Tony: See, I told you meetings don't have to suck. At any rate, I want to take a moment to thank my guest again, Kevin M. Hoffman, he's the author of ‘Meeting Design’ and I really hope you go out and you buy the book because it is. It is really incredible and it, and it has done wonders to how I think about meetings and how I think about my time and efficiency. At any rate, if you have found any value in this podcast, just do a solid for ol Tony, share it with your friends and let them know what you've been listening to every week. As always, I can't wait to have you back next week, but until then, friends stay curious.

The XD Podcast is part of XD Media LLC. This episode was written, produced, and edited by me, Tony Daussat. Hosting and publication of this podcast is through Buzzsprout.