What you have described – the dreaded annual performance review, is not that uncommon. I suspect that many people who read your question can relate to it. I like to compare it to a colonoscopy – the anticipation & preparation for the event are often worse than the event itself. I believe that real performance management happens in the more frequent, informal dialog during the year than at an annual, more formal event.
Congratulations on wanting to raise the bar on the quality of the annual event. It sounds like it is set low. Here are my suggestions.
First & foremost, keep the discussion positive. Avoid problems & excuses. Indicate that you feel good about the accomplishments of you & your organization. To the extent your boss will allow you, take charge of the discussion and use the concept of “feedforward” coined by my business partner Marshall Goldsmith. You can download his article on it here: http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com/docs/articles/Try-FeedForward-Instead-of-Feedback.doc
The concept of feedback is often associated with performance reviews and can be a negative experience, even for those who say they want it. Feedback focuses on the past & often deals with failures or mistakes. You can’t change the past, you can only change the future. Feedforward focuses on a positive future state that you can accomplish. It might sound like any of the following statements:
“I feel very positive about the work we accomplished last year, I think our organization could be even more successful in the future if . . . What suggestions do you have?”
“As I look at my role in the organization, I am proud of where I am. I think I could grow & contribute even more if . . . Here are some ideas of how I think you could help me be even more effective in these areas. . . . What suggestions do you have?”
In summary, keep the conversation focused on a positive future state & how you & your organization could be even more effective. Say “thank you” at the end.