Meetings and presentations. A chance for your star to shine.
Around any organization in this age of information overload, you’ll frequently hear these expressions of frustration:
“Oh no, not another ***** meeting.”
“Here we go again – death by Powerpoint.”
“Press the fire alarm, maybe then he’ll shut up.”
We have too many platforms that compete for our attention already, yet still we are driven into meetings, brainstorms, presentations, training sessions and conferences.
Why So ManyMeetings and Presentations?
First, let’s understand why. Modern management practice encourages decision making by consensus. Old style managers would make unilateral choices, often based only on an imperfect understanding of the real issues, and use the organization’s hierarchy to spread the word.
Many of these leaders had such refined business or professional instincts, their decisions often turned out to be appropriate to the circumstances. There were colossal mistakes, of course, but countless giant corporations were built by such powerful visionaries.
Think Kelloggs, Mars, Ford Motor Company, Lever Brothers (now Unilever), Porsche and, in the modern era, Apple, Google, Under Armour and Facebook.
However, the world is more complicated now and, perhaps partially as a result, most decision making responsibilities have been spread more widely.
Yes, you’ll still find plenty of extraordinary entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Kevin Plank and Jeff Bezos who will breathe life into their vision by force of personality, superior intellect and unbridled self-belief. But most managers are bound by procedure, precedence and, of course, fear.
Decisions on human resources, remuneration, marketing, finance, procurement, corporate social responsibility, public and investor relations and myriad other management disciplines are usually assigned to working groups, committees and, good grief, even sub-committees! Imagine if Steve Jobs had formed a design committee at Apple.
Of course, some meetings are essential. But often they’re either too frequent, too long or try to cover too much ground.
How To Make Your Meetingsand Presentations More Memorable And Effective
- If you have to present a marketing plan or a budget, consider circulating a hard copy of your presentation before the meeting to each of the attendees. Assuming they’ve read your plan, you can then devote the meeting to highlighting some key points and fielding questions. Those who couldn’t be bothered to read the material will soon learn to adapt if they don’t want to be excluded from the approval process.
- If you absolutely have to use PowerPoint, graphics, maps, diagrams, photographs and other visual material will make your slides more interesting. Use key words on your slides or visuals that reflect the point you’re making. Strongly resist the temptation to read from your slides.
- Get into the short meeting habit. Invite the attendees to remain standing, don’t serve refreshments other than bottled water and kick off the meeting by saying: “I want to get through the agenda in fifteen minutes or less, so I’d appreciate you switching off your phones, tablets and laptops and staying on your feet. We’ll be quicker and sharper that way.”
- If you’re a confident presenter, rather than slides use cue cards which can be in hard copy or you can set up the cues on your tablet.
- Use visual aids whenever you can. An unusual and really effective technique is to set up an easel with an A/0 pad. Have a competent illustrator/cartoonist record the proceedings in words and pictures. The pages can later be used as unofficial minutes.
- If you’re feeling really creative, you can make a close-up video of the illustrator at work and use it as a training aid or to distribute the meeting’s conclusions to a wider audience. You’ll need an experienced videographer to make sure your movie is slick and professional.
- Keep all meetings short. Where possible, brief everyone involved 48 hours ahead of schedule. Let them have the agenda and an idea of the objectives you plan to achieve.
- Never, ever allow phones, tablets or laptops into your meetings. If anyone has an emergency call, they can leave the meeting room to deal with it.
- Invite only those who absolutely have to be there. If they can’t make it, they can send a trusted proxy.
- Do everything you can to keep your meetings on track and on time and try to liven them up so that people actually look forward to them.
The secret to holding successful meetings is to make sure that when everyone leaves the room, they feel their time has been well spent. So make sure your meetings run according to schedule, make them interesting, rewarding and always include a moment of surprise.
Because meetings are such an important part of everyone’s business life, it’s a subject we will be coming back to again and again.
Check your schedule for the last two or three weeks. Review all the meetings you attended and do this:
- Note how many you could have missed without affecting the outcome.
- See which ones could have been combined to make better use of everyone’s time.
- Consider which could have been shortened by holding them while everyone was standing.
- Count the number of issues that could have been dealt with differently – by sending an email, announcing on the company’s intranet or any other means.