Too Many Business Meetings Don’t Work – 5 Tips to Transform yours

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In today’s fast paced corporate environment many business meetings can be complex and demanding decision making forums.  If you spend time in business meetings today, you may have noticed a paradox. It’s likely that you will have to prepare exhaustively for every conceivable eventuality, whilst also being ready to improvise in a heartbeat when in the room.

Having spent what feels like a lifetime myslef in the corporate world, I have expereinced many different types of business meetings. Here are 3 very different meetings you may have experienced yourself.

The amphitheatre

This is the arena full of politics, personal agendas and egos. These business meetings do very little for fellowship and business growth.

The rising pressure businesses face to innovate, increase profits and reduce costs  are highly visible in these meetings. These are the meetings where you are likely to witness:

–         Conflicting interests and agendas

–         Suspicion, doubt and confusion

–         One-upmanship

–         Ambiguity and vagueness

–         Every word and intention under scrutiny

Meetings with these characteristics inevitably leads to professionals dreading the monthly interrogation; sorry, I mean’t meeting.

The graveyard

As grim as the ampitheatre sounds there are of course other meetings which don’t offer the same intensity and excitement.

These are the business meeetings in which nothing much new ever happens; they are deathly boring.  Many of these meetings are so tedious that its participants are as equally troubled and depressed at the prospect of attending them.

Why are they so dull?

In short, it’s the same people sitting at the same seats talking about the same things. They are updating on the same key perfomance indicators and same problems. These meetings lack energy, focus and imagination. Sadly, these meetings are often dominated by the same one or two voices.

These are the loudest or most opinionated people who tend to either focus on the trivial or the complete opposite; wishful thinking

Either way nothing much actually happens in these meetings.

The party

I like these meetings.

This kind of meeting is not only highly effective but dare I say a pleasurable place to be. In these business meetings you will find:

–         Clear and charismatic leadership

–         Vision and clarity

–         Respect, integrity, camaraderie and unity

–         Empathy

–         Imagination

–         Openness

–         Productivity

The participants in these meetings know and understand that being professional doesn’t mean you have to be deadly serious and rigid all of the time.  Every organisation would love to be in this group and indeed many would be deluded in thinking they are. Sometimes, a bit of honest talking and feedback may reveal some uncomfortable truths.

If your company meetings are already akin to ‘the party’ congratulations. If however, you’re not quite in the amphitheatre or graveyard but you’d benefit from some of the characteristics of ‘the party’ you may need your team to agree to a contract.

1.  Leave your ego at the door

Everyone agrees in advance that whatever happens they are to leave their egos at the door. They pledge to stop trying to look good  and impress at someone else’s expense.

It’s human nature to strive to perform and look good in any setting where we co-habit a room with fellow human beings.  I believe that presents a significant challenge for todays business meetings. Imagine what would happen if everyone agreed in advance to resist fanning their feathers in company meetings. Instead, everone promised to enter  the meeting room with just one intention; making the business look good, not themselves.

2.   Listen more than you speak

We have all endured meetings where somone either unconsciously or consciously dominates the meeting. These people also have have  the last word.

Business meetings aside, I’ve long held a view that many people don’t truly listen, it’s my belief that they are often just waiting to speak. These two things are entirely different of course.

It is crucial that in today’s meetings we all stop waiting to speak and really start to listen.  That means, setting aside judgments and assumptions and just listening.

That’s a hard thing for most of us human beings to do, but imagine the impact if we made a sincere commitment to truly listen to each other.

3.  I’m right, you’re wrong

Have you noticed that even a room full of highly intelligent, creative and intelligent adults can sometimes appear a little more like a kindergarten class?  Observing a room full of adults playing a game of one-upmanship and point scoring with the sole objective of ‘I win, you lose’, is not pleasant.

This mindset needs to be left outside of business meetings too.

The contract should clearly state a commitment to a new objective of win – win.

4.  No more justifications and explanations

I am often surprised by how much time is taken up in meetings with long, laborious and defensive justifications and explanations.

The contract should state that everyone will agree to respect their colleagues by getting to the point swiftly and articulately.  If you make a mistake, accept and admit it without the 35 minute explanation.

We all agree to tell it as it is and make it easy for each other to do so.

5.  We are really all the same

Wouldn’t it be great if when we entered business meetings we did so fully conscious of our sense of self?

That means that whilst we may all have our own departments, budgets, deadlines and pressures we aknowledge that we really are all the same.  Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t mean you have to leave compassion and empathy at the door.  It’s worth remembering before you sit down that we are all sons and daughters, perhaps mothers and fathers and we all have many things in common aside from the business.

Not least of which is the need to connect with each other. This part of the agreement stipulates a commitment to deminstrate emotional intelligence and to try connect with each other emotionally as well as intellectually.

If you believe there is scope for improvement in the effectiveness of your management or team meetings  and you’d like to go to ‘the party’ you really need a contract like this.

The day before your next meeting have a quiet word with the person who called the meeting and will be chairing it. Tell them about this great article you read about how to get the most out of meetings and improve their productivity. Ask for their permission and approval to try something out.

Once you have their blessing ,either you or the chair person will write the 5 terms up on a flip chart as you explain them to the attendees. Ask for their sanction before you begin the meeting.

Does it sound idealistic?

Perhaps, although, I believe we owe it to each other and the business to aspire to create the most enjoyable and productive meetings possible.

If you called the meeting and will be chairing it then give it a try yourself and watch the difference it makes.

I did and it’s transformational.

Enjoy ‘the party’.

Connecting really is everything!

If you need help presenting more effectively in business meetings:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and public speaking coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Photo by José Martín Ramírez Carrasco on Unsplash

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