If you’re a manager of a company of any size, then you know about meetings. If you serve as a volunteer on a board, a commission, a charity, or an organization of any credible type or size, then you know about meetings. If you chair a group of any more than yourself, then you know about meetings.
As a matter of fact, there is likely not too many people on the planet that have not been to a meeting at some point in their lives—homeowners associations, company shareholder, Scouts, clubs, PTAs, TupperWare, human resources, employee training, and on and on and on. It seems people are meeting’ed to death. That’s why, in most cases, when a meeting is announced, you’ll usually hear more groans than cheers. Do you feel the pain, the angst, the sheer overwhelming nature of meetings?
Then, you should know how to recognize the difference between meetings that are good and those that are bad. If you are going to hold a meeting that is at once both memorable and leave the attendees chanting “more, more, more…”, then you must learn the secrets.
The art of having a successful meeting does not just appear out of nowhere like a cloud of pixie dust. It must be developed, groomed, studied and perfected. Many meetings, either impromptu or scheduled, run the gamut from total boredom to complete insanity. Very few meetings are held that make anyone jump for joy and beg for more. Here are a few tips to make your listeners glad they attended:
1.) Be on time. No one likes to wait, especially when meetings are scheduled in advance and are expected to start at a certain time. Specify when you anticipate to start, and don’t be late. Of course, last minute delays may always be a possibility. But in case that happens, send a delegate or a quick message to inform your guests that you must either postpone or cancel the meeting. Don’t keep them guessing. That’s rude and disrespectful of others’ time. And, stop when you’re finished. Set a time limit, and stick with it. If you say you’ll be done in an hour, then end the meeting in 60 minutes. Don’t drag on, and on, and on...
2.) Be organized. Be prepared with your notes in order, and provide a reasonable time frame within which you deliver your message. Meetings that go wrong often head south when the presenter doesn’t appear to know what he/she is doing. If you have an “oops” moment, perhaps you can laugh it off as part of having a “senior moment," assuming you are one. Or, at least get back on track quickly as your audience can become impatient soon if you appear to be out of order, out of touch, out of control, or out of your mind. Knowing how to connect the dots is critical to managing a successful meeting.
3.) Be informative. If you have detailed information to deliver, be courteous enough to provide copies of the material you are going to discuss. As well, provide a soft copy of your presentation if your attendees want to review it later without lugging around a stack of paper. If you have time, and especially if you want your audience to be prepared in advance, send out a text or email with the information so they can be more prepared to listen and understand the context of what you are going to present.
4.) Be secure. This maneuver is more suited for meetings that include a discussion of highly technical, extremely detailed, sensitive, or complicated material. If your meeting mandates a high degree for security, just send an advance note to advise your audience that the information you disclose is not for public dissemination until after your presentation, if then. Trust is key, and your meetings should rely not only on your sense of security, but also on those who are going to attend.
5.) Be personable. How many times have you been in a meeting, and the host presenter was about as exciting as watching paint dry? People hate dull, boring, stale information, and they hate even worse those who are the same when talking about the materials. That doesn’t mean you need to come jumping into the room like a high school cheerleader, but be positive, upbeat and engaging with your conversation. Create a presence when you walk into the room that you are confident without being cocky, joyful without appearing like a clown, and motivated without acting like you just drank a case of Red Bull.
6.) Be knowledgeable. Know your stuff. Prepare for what you say, rehearse it, and know it. People sitting in meetings are waiting to hear what you have to say, and they are there because they are interested or compelled by some reason to attend. When you open your mouth, try not to insert your feet. Shoe leather doesn’t taste good. Also, you should deliver your message with confidence. That way, your listeners actually may believe what you say, even if it sounds too good to be true. If you are delivering bad news, don’t shrink from the truth. Address the circumstances head on, and learn to put a positive spin on even the worst situation. You can empathize with the audience, and show them that there are solutions to every problem. Former President Ronald Reagan was a genius at this type of delivery, and that’s why he is still revered as “The Great Communicator.” Regardless of your politics, you have to admit that he knew how to deliver a speech.
7.) Be inspirational. Granted, it may be tough to get all excited about certain topics. However, as the meeting coordinator or host, at least show that you believe in what you are presenting. Some meetings may be too critical or too emotional to show enthusiasm, but you should provide your listeners with a positive spin for the reason they are getting together. As your guests, employees or attendees leave, they should respect your leadership and the quality of your information, and, even if they later don’t remember much of what they heard, they felt good about what happened and positively acted on it.
Meetings can be either good or bad, depending on your mood, the material, or the presenter. Make sure that you learn the art of successful meetings. Your success depends on it.