This post from Guy Kawasaki on tips for public speaking got me thinking. What if you could conduct a meeting such that:
- It ended early and accomplished the desired outcomes
- The dialogue was engaging, provocative and FUN
- People felt comfortable being open and candid
- And it set the tone for a great and productive day
That would be worth a standing ovation, right? Why not go for it! I have translated Guy’s 11 suggestions for internal meeting leaders. Several of them are the same and translate well to meetings. Here they are:
- Have something interesting to say. This is the same as Guy’s #1. "If you have nothing to say, you should not speak. End of discussion."
- Cut the sales pitch. Yep, this is the same as Guy’s and applies to meetings, perhaps even moreso than speeches. How many meetings have you attended recently where you got the distinct impression you were being sold a bill of moldy goods? I rest my case.
- Focus on entertaining. Same as Guy’s. While this may not be the primary goal of a meeting, as the meeting leader/facilitator, it is your job to make sure the MEETING DOES NOT SUCK. When people are entertained, they are engaged. Leave the mime and cabaret kicks at home, entertain by exciting minds.
- Understand the audience. Same as Guy’s. "If you can prove to your audience in the first five minutes that you understand who they are, you’ve got them for the rest of the speech." Applies even moreso to meetings.
- Be there big. Show up to the meeting with your confidence, passion, and focus in high gear. Be your most animated and collaborative self.
- Don’t denigrate other people or departments. Positive dialogue and results come when people feel they can trust you and things are not stressed or strange. Don’t get me wrong, challenging people is great, but you don’t want people feeling weird because you said that the accounting department could not count the beans it takes to fill the shot glasses they all keep in their desk drawers.
- Tell stories. Same as Guy’s. Tell selected stories that help engage people and illustrate the topic. Don’t get on your soap box and cause the meeting to run overtime, but pepper in a few compelling scenarios.
- Pre-circulate before the meeting. Help people get ready and prepared for the meeting. Have them walk in raring to go. Ensure your key players will be there by telling them personally that you are looking forward to their ideas and input. Make them feel smart and valued before the meeting gets under way!
- Hold meetings when minds are bright. Don’t hold a meeting first thing on Monday or at 4pm on Friday or at times when you know people are slowing down. Catch people when they are fresh and ready. If after lunch, start with brief stretches while reviewing the agenda.
- Don’t worry about the room. Focus on great conversation, not the surroundings. Sure, it is nice to have all the bells and whistles, but it is not required. You can have a GREAT meeting anywhere.
- Practice and facilitate all the time. Hone your skills at creating ovation worthy meetings. Resolve to NOT facilitate another sucky meeting! Ask for coaching or help if needed. Watch and learn from the best. Facilitation is a core management skill. You will use this in one-on-one conversations and large group meetings.
In addition to these, I would add:
- Have a reason to meet. A compelling reason. A desired outcome that requires communication, discussion, lively dialogue, and collaboration. Get something done in meetings. Insist on moving the work forward.
- Define the agenda and desired outcomes when booking the meeting. Yes, this is obvious, I know, but many people still don’t do this and the reason is still not clear half way through the meeting.
- Reward people with your LOVE for being a great participant. A great participant is actively engaged, participates without getting things off track, and is open and candid. They take on action items and deliver as agreed. They are fun, open, and positive.
Has anyone ever gotten a standing ovation at work? What did you do to deserve it? Imagine if meetings could be that good!