A recent episode of the brilliant ABC comedy Utopia, a mockumentary about an inept government department, opens with 15 people in a meeting. An awkward silence descends before someone finally asks, “Who called this meeting?”
How many times have you sat in a meeting and wondered, “What is this about? Why are we here?”
Let’s face it: meetings are often just activity to create the illusion of work. Many meetings are mundane, poorly run and are often a waste of time, money and resources.
So how can you lead engaging, relevant meetings? And how can you ensure others fully participate and stay on track?
Let’s look at three key requirements:
1. Set the context
This will sound like a blinding flash of the obvious, because it’s such a simple step, but it’s also the most ignored. Before every meeting ask yourself, “Why is it being held in the first place?”
Recently, an HR client called us in for a meeting with a senior manager. We asked for an agenda, but were left in the dark. When we arrived on the day, the senior manager greeted us cautiously, almost coldly. Once in the meeting room, she sat opposite us with a wide eyed-look before asking, “So…how do you want to proceed?”
She had no idea her HR team had called the meeting with us to discuss a program they wanted us to deliver. This could have been easily avoided with an agenda. So have the honesty to really question why you are bringing people together.
Having a considered, well planned agenda that:
- Establishes the context
- Sets the tone
- Presents the event as highly valuable and not to be missed
- Allows participants to plan their contribution
- Outlines each participant’s role
- Keeps the meeting on track
2. Engage your audience
To lead a meeting that matters, you need to engage participants from the start. Obviously. When you ‘chair’ or lead a meeting you are responsible for the quality of the experience and the outcomes achieved.
Here are four techniques that work:
- Punctuality. Start the meeting on time, every time. This simple act says ‘our time is precious and this meeting is of great value’. In my twenties, I worked for radio station SAFM, where the critical Monday Operations Meeting started at 9am. At 9am, the door was locked. No one was late. Ever. Missing the meeting was professional suicide.
- Posture of excellence. Don’t slump or slouch. Walk into the room confidently and sit with an open, upright posture. You’ll immediately command attention and influence others to stay engaged.
- Voice of authority. With conscious projection, pace and pitch, your voice can have profound power. Your tonality literally sets the tone.
- Eye contact. Make a point to consciously connect with every person at the table throughout the meeting. Again this seems so obvious it’s hardly worth mentioning, yet is not often done. Eye contact is critical to high quality engagement.
3. Hold people accountable
As a meeting facilitator, it’s your responsibility to ensure everyone understands his or her role.
Try these three tips to keep things moving along:
- Ask people to be punchy. Too much time is wasted when we think as we speak, rather than before we speak. Reminding participants to be brief takes the meeting to a higher standard and creates relevance and value.
- Frame the behavioural standards. At the start of the meeting, mention the behaviours that won’t work in the room – such as interrupting, negativity, blaming or apathy. Insist that phones are off and out of sight. No exceptions.
- Stop, review, reflect. Every 10 or so minutes, pause to reflect on what’s been achieved so far. This progresses the meeting, avoids the group getting stuck on one agenda item, and sustains a high energy level.
So now you know some proven ways to make meetings count. In the Mastering Communication Program, Colin James and Erica Bagshaw delve deeper into these and other proven techniques to influence with elegance and power.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their leadership skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.