There are plenty of us who say there should be fewer meetings. I would be in that group! But when we must meet, let’s make sure we have a game plan, especially around who speaks and how much they speak. Here are some suggestions to make your next important meeting work well.
Who attends? If it is a gathering of two teams, how many people will the other side bring? This question is especially important if you are meeting with a client or potential client. If the other side is bringing just one or two persons, don’t show up with five! You will likely overwhelm the client, making it almost impossible for the client to remember who does what. You’ll also appear overeager or intimidating, depending upon your approach.
For other day-to-day meetings spend more time thinking about the mix of people, roles and personalities. If you are looking at six or more people know that getting equal participation is going to be that much harder. (That’s not always a bad thing, because some people may be in the room mainly to observe. If that’s the case, explain that to everyone at the beginning to avoid issues later. Sheryl Sandberg recounts in Lean In sitting on the sidelines at a meeting and then being asked by the most senior person what she thought. It took her off guard but served as a great lesson about including the ENTIRE team, even the most junior.)
Are you dealing with a difficult issue? Set out the difficulties early and the roles each person can play in working towards a solution. Which leads to my second point:
We’re going to get something done here, okay? If everyone has a sense something will actually be accomplished at this meeting they will come in with a better attitude. Your agenda and opening comments (always have both!) can go a long way to making that happen. That doesn’t mean you have to run over everyone in the process, but instead you can direct people where you feel the most productive sharing can take place. And you can try to address hot spots and suggest an approach there as well. It doesn’t mean that everyone and everything will magically fall into place, but at least you have a better chance of getting off in a productive direction!
What if you have to meet again? Okay, all problems cannot be solved in a single meeting (Darn!). The tone of the next meeting will be greatly impacted by how you end the first. Wrap-up the first meeting by pointing out some of the progress made and setting out some thoughts on the next. Offer others a chance to contribute to the planning of meeting two by email and assure the team this will not go on forever! Alan Mulally, who is credited with turning around the Ford Motor Company, held lots of meetings along the way but always noted small bits of progress and kept his teams on point by providing that kind of specific leadership.
Tired of meetings? Feel like you have too many? Make every one count! Use these rules and buy-in will be much easier to find!
Favorite read of late: Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
Need a Speaker for an upcoming event? How about Cary?
Here’s a quick example: www.Clear-Comm.net (Click on the homepage video.)
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].